Myanmar Hopes to Vaccinate Health Staff in February

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 5 January 2021

Yangon – Myanmar is planning to vaccinate health workers on the COVID-19 frontline in February, according to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The authorities have warned people to comply with COVID-19 preventative guidelines while vaccines are being distributed.

On Monday, Myanmar reported 126,935 COVID-19 cases, including 2,744 deaths and 110,200 recoveries.

Since Dec 19, Myanmar has seen a decline in daily COVID-19 cases.  Fewer than 1,000 new cases are now being reported per day, down from a peak of more than 1,400.

In a televised speech last Friday, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said Myanmar has signed up with the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, for the purchase of its COVID-19 vaccine to inoculate about 15 million citizens.

She said Myanmar has made arrangements for vaccines to be imported when it has received emergency authorization. The first priority group, medical personnel, will be vaccinated in February, the State Counselor said.

Myanmar has more than 110,000 medical staff, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

“Until the vaccines are available, I appeal to people to abide by the health rules and give support to our efforts to beat COVID-19,” said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

According to news reports, the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech vaccines were approved by India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organization on Sunday.

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last Thursday that it has held frequent talks with its Chinese counterparts about acquiring COVID-19 vaccines from the China National Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd (Sinopharm) and Sinovac Biotech Limited in Hong Kong.

The ministry said Myanmar would receive vaccines from China which have been approved for emergency authorization in early 2021.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the health ministry’s Emerging Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that wearing a mask, frequent hand washing and avoiding crowded areas are key to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“COVID-19 vaccines are important as is abiding by COVID-19 preventative guidelines,” she said.

Myanmar is also trying to buy COVID-19 vaccines from the US, UK and Russia through diplomatic channels, according to the health ministry.

Myanmar has established three conditions, only one of which must be met: approval of a vaccine by the World Health Organization; official approval by three national food and drug administrations or emergency approval.

Myanmar plans to provide vaccines to about 20 percent of its 54.4 million population by April under the global Covax affordable medicines programs.

According to the health ministry, 40 percent of the country’s population is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the 2021-22 financial year.

And the remaining 60 percent is expected to be vaccinated during the 2022-23 financial year.

Myanmar also has negotiated with the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency and International Monetary Fund to secure more than US$950 million (1.29 trillion kyats) to fund the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently, fewer than 300 new COVID-19 cases are being reported in the country’s coronavirus hotspot, Yangon, per day, down from up to 1,900 cases per day in previous months.

On Monday, Yangon reported 83,525 COVID-19 cases, followed by Mandalay Region with 14,094 cases, Bago Region with 7,999 cases, Ayeyarwady Region with 4,898 cases and Rakhine State with 4,163 cases.

Cases have been reported at about 300 townships across the country.

Myanmar is third in Asean in terms of COVID-19 cases, behind Indonesia and the Philippines.

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