Burma

Myanmar Health Ministry to Continue Vaccinations Despite Coup

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 4 February 2021

Yangon – Despite the military coup, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports says it is continuing with its COVID-19 vaccination program.

The ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Thet Khaing Win, has been named minister after the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) appointee, Dr. Myint Htwe, resigned after Monday’s coup.

The departing minister asked his staff to serve the people, especially during the COVID-19 crisis and vaccination rollout.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the ministry’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, told The Irrawaddy that hospital staff can treat existing COVID-19 patients as cases are declining and only around 10,000 patients are being treated, despite a national medical strike against military rule.

“We are still successfully treating patients. People don’t need to worry,” she said.

She said by Sunday that about 80,000 out of the country’s 110,000 health-care staff on the COVID-19 frontline had received their first jab.

Parliamentarians also received their first vaccination since Jan. 29.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi said parliamentarians can receive their second jab at any vaccination center 28 days or more after the first dose.

“We will start public vaccinations from Feb. 5. Older people with underlying conditions across the country will be vaccinated first to reduce COVID-19 deaths,” she said.

On Jan. 22, Myanmar received India’s gift of 1.5 million doses of Covishield to cover 750,000 people, with two doses per person.

Around 260,000 vaccine doses are planned for health care staff, volunteers on the COVID-19 frontline, all parliamentarians and senior government figures. About 1.2 million remaining vaccine doses will be given to the public, according to Dr. Khin Khin Gyi.

Myanmar has ordered 30 million doses of Covishield from the Serum Institute of India with 2 million doses due to arrive on Feb. 10, according to the health ministry.

About 20 percent of the 54.4 million population in Myanmar will be given vaccines under the global Covax affordable medicines program and the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation, an international alliance to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach the world’s poor.

The first batch of COVID-19 vaccine under the World Health Organization’s Covax program will arrive in late February, according to the health ministry.

The NLD government formerly expected that 40 percent of the population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. The remaining adults were expected to be inoculated during the 2022-23 fiscal year.

However, thousands of doctors, nurses and other staff from more than 100 government hospitals and health departments across the country are now on strike in a civil disobedience movement against the military coup.

On Feb. 2, coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the chairman of the newly formed State Administrative Council, urged the new health minister to conduct more COVID-19 tests to prevent the spread of coronavirus, saying treatment costs are too high.

Since Dec. 19, Myanmar has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases. Fewer than 500 cases are now being reported per day, down from a peak of 1,400 cases in previous months.

On Wednesday, Myanmar reported 140,927 COVID-19 cases, including 3,160 fatalities and 126,384 recoveries.

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