Myanmar & COVID-19

Myanmar Plans to Buy India’s COVID-19 Vaccine

By Zaw Zaw Htwe 24 December 2020

YANGON—Myanmar’s government has entered into discussions with the government of India about the purchase of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India.

The Serum Institute of India is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and has sought emergency authorization of its vaccine from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI).

In a Tuesday meeting with Saurabh Kumar, India’s ambassador to Myanmar, U Myint Htwe, the Union health minister, discussed the purchase.

The Health Ministry also said it has discussed potential cooperation between the two countries in the area of producing and exporting qualified drugs and antibiotics.

At the meeting, the Indian ambassador promised support for the kind of cooperation proposed by Myanmar’s Health Ministry.

In a separate meeting with India’s ambassador, U Kyaw Tin, Union minister for international cooperation, also discussed the logistics of providing as much COVID-19 vaccine to the Myanmar people as possible, as quickly as possible.

According to news reports, the Serum Institute of India expects its COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for emergency use authorization by the end of December.

Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, said Myanmar is discussing the purchase of vaccines from the developers once they are approved. Myanmar has established three conditions, one of which must be met: Approval of the vaccine by the World Health Organization, official approval in three separate countries, or emergency approval.

She told The Irrawaddy on Monday that Myanmar is also trying to buy the COVID-19 vaccines from China, the US, the UK and Russia through international diplomatic channels.

Myanmar plans to start providing COVID-19 vaccines to about 20 percent of its 54.4 million population in April under the global Covax affordable medicines program.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sport, 40 percent of the country’s population is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021.

The Health Ministry also said that the remaining 60 percent of the population is expected to be vaccinated in fiscal year 2022-23.

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

As of Thursday, Myanmar has reported 118,869 COVID-19 cases, including 2,507 deaths and 99,325 recoveries.

Since Dec. 19, Myanmar has seen a decline in daily COVID-19 cases. Fewer than 1,000 new cases have been reported daily, down from more than 1,400 new cases per day earlier.

On Tuesday, Myanmar’s Health Ministry issued a statement urging the public to try as hard as possible to resume business amid the “new normal”, because COVID-19 will be a fact of life for the long term.

All sectors including the economic, health, education and social sectors, need to get back to regular conditions, the Health Ministry said.

To live with the “new normal”, the ministry has urged people to follow the COVID-19 preventive measures: Wearing face masks, frequent hand washing and maintaining distance from one another.

So far, Myanmar’s government has lifted its COVID-19 ban on domestic flights and has implemented some sightseeing tours in an effort to boost economic recovery. It also is considering the resumption of international flights, which have been banned since late March. Myanmar’s first COVID-19 case was reported on March 23.

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