Myanmar’s military regime is planning to vaccinate middle and high school students against COVID-19, while also attempting to reopen schools that have been closed for more than two months amid the coronavirus surge in the country.
Junta-controlled newspapers say that the regime will start nationwide vaccinations for students as young as 12 on Tuesday. They will be jabbed with China’s Sinovac vaccine.
Pilot projects are now underway in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw. There are some 83,969 middle and high school students in Naypyitaw, according to a local administrator quoted by the Mirror Daily newspaper.
There were 22,055 middle and high schools in Myanmar as of June, according to regime data. But the total number of students is currently not available.
In July, Myanmar was hit hard by the third wave of COVID-19, when 6,000 people died of the virus. July was the deadliest month for the country since the virus was first detected in Myanmar in late March 2020.
Schools and universities were ordered to close last year to try and minimise the spread of COVID-19. But the junta, which seized power in a February 1 coup, tried to reopen schools across the country in June, in a propaganda effort to try and show that Myanmar was returning to normality after the coup and the subsequent lethal crackdowns on peaceful anti-regime protesters.
But they were forced to close again weeks later, as clusters of infections emerged at some schools and the third wave of COVID-19 began to ravage the country.
As of Sunday, Myanmar has recorded 478,651 positive coronavirus cases with 18,134 deaths.
The regime said that it was likely to reopen schools later this month or in early November, as the daily rate of people testing positive for the virus has dropped below 10 percent in recent weeks. Currently, the daily positivity rate is around eight percent.
Myanmar’s ousted National League for Democracy government started its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination program in January, with healthcare workers and senior citizens a priority. Since the coup, the military regime has intermittently resumed the program.
Since the deadly third wave, the junta has accelerated the vaccination program, especially in August, with jabs donated or purchased from China and India. It will also receive more than 6.6 million doses of Pfizer and Sinovac from the global vaccine alliance GAVI.
As of Sunday, Myanmar has fully vaccinated over 9.9 million people out of a total population of more than 55 million. Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has vowed that half of the population will be inoculated by the end of the year.
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