Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Appeals to Public to Help Fund Purchase of COVID-19 Vaccines

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 6 January 2021

YANGON—Myanmar is seeking donations from the public to supplement an initial US$251 million (331.28 billion kyats) earmarked by the government to fund the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry (MOPFI).

On Tuesday, the MOPFI said in a statement that the Fund Management Sub-committee on the Purchase of COVID-19 Vaccines had opened a foreign currency account and a kyat account at the Myanmar Economic Bank in Naypyitaw.

The MOPFI said the foreign currency account was opened with an initial deposit of $250 million and the Myanmar currency account was opened with 1 billion kyats ($750,000) from the state’s coffers for use in purchasing COVID-19 vaccines.

Any organizations or individuals, in Myanmar or abroad, who want to contribute cash donations toward the purchase of vaccines are invited to donate any amount of foreign currency or Myanmar kyats into those accounts, according to the ministry’s statement.

Following the ministry’s invitation, tycoon U Chit Khine, chairman of one of Myanmar’s biggest conglomerates, Eden Group, which controls Myanmar Apex Bank, Denko Trading and Gold Delta Co Ltd, said on his Facebook account on Tuesday evening that he had donated $1.5 million to the government for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

Another tycoon, U Zaw Zaw, the chairman of the Ayeyarwady Foundation, who has already contributed more than $11 million to the country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, announced on Wednesday that he had donated 2 billion kyats ($1.5 million) to the government for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the MOPFI, COVID-19 vaccines cost around $2 per dose, and two doses are needed per person, putting the total cost per person at around $4.

In addition to the vaccine itself, storage and other logistics costs will be significant.

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

Myanmar expects that 40 percent of its 54.4 million people will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. The remaining 60 percent are expected to be vaccinated in fiscal year 2022-23.

Some 20 percent of the country’s population will be vaccinated under the COVAX facility, a global affordable medicines program.

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

Meanwhile Myanmar has signed with the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, to buy COVID-19 vaccines developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

Myanmar has also discussed acquiring COVID-19 vaccines from China National Pharmaceutical Group Co. Ltd (Sinopharm) and Sinovac Biotech Limited in Hong Kong, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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

Myanmar expects to start providing vaccinations in February.

The spokesperson for MOPFI could not be reached for comment.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Wednesday, Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Health Ministry’s Emerging Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit, encouraged people to contribute to the government’s efforts to buy COVID-19 vaccines.

“If people comply with the COVID-19 preventative guidelines, we can spend more money on buying vaccines instead of providing treatments,” Dr. Daw Khin Khin Gyi added.

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 daily cases.

As of Tuesday, Myanmar had reported 127,582 COVID-19 cases including 2,766 fatalities and 110,805 recoveries.

Currently, the country’s coronavirus hotspot, Yangon, is reporting fewer than 300 new COVID-19 cases per day. In previous months the figure reached as high as 1,900 cases per day.

On Tuesday, Yangon reported that its total had reached 83,699 cases, followed by Mandalay Region with 14,243 cases, Bago Region with 8,080 cases, Ayeyarwady Region with 4,948 cases and Rakhine State with 4,166 cases.

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

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

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