Myanmar’s Ethnic Shan Rebels Launch COVID-19 Vaccine Program With Chinese Jabs
By The Irrawaddy 23 July 2021
The Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), the political wing of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), which is fighting sporadically with the Myanmar military, is vaccinating people in its territory against COVID-19 with vaccines bought from China. The vaccine program comes after the SSPP, which is based in northern Shan State, has received no assistance from the military regime in the fight against coronavirus. “Over 2,000 people near our headquarters have received jabs. We plan to vaccinate some 500,000 people in our region. We have ordered vaccinations to be carried out,” said SSPP information officer Major Sai Phone Han. The SSPP launched its vaccination program in the third week of July at its headquarters in Wanhai village, Monghsu Township. It plans to provide free vaccinations to around 500,000 people in Kyethi, Mongyai, Tangyan and Hsipaw townships, where the SSA-N is active. Maj. Sai Phone Han said the SSPP had ordered the vaccines directly from China. China produces two vaccine variants, Sinovac and Sinopharm, but the SSPP did not specify which vaccine it has ordered.
The SSPP has raised a fund of 200 million kyats to contain coronavirus and carry out a COVID-19 vaccination program in its territory, and will increase the fund if necessary, said the spokesman. The SSPP/SSA-N previously signed two preliminary ceasefire agreements with U Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government, but opted out of signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and is still fighting sporadically with the Myanmar military. Ethnic armed groups in Myanmar have not received proper assistance to contain the virus in their territories from either the ousted civilian National League for Democracy (NLD) government or the military regime, forcing them to institute their own COVID-19 prevention, control and treatment plans. The junta has purchased COVID-19 vaccines from both China and Russia. Over 700,000 vaccine doses arrived from China on Thursday, with two million more set to arrive later this week, according to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports. The first batch of vaccines from China – some 500,000 – arrived in Yangon in early May. Prior to the Feb. 1 coup, the NLD government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi purchased 30 million Covidshield vaccines from India and also received another 1.5 million as a donation. While the government was vaccinating prioritized population groups, the military staged its coup, throwing the vaccination program into chaos.
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