Yangon – Myanmar has launched a nationwide coronavirus vaccination drive by inoculating health-care personnel, including volunteers, on the COVID-19 frontline.
The vaccinations follow major programs in Singapore and Indonesia while Laos has vaccinated only a few hundred health-care workers. Other Asean members expect to begin vaccinations in February.
On Tuesday, Myanmar reported 138,368 COVID-19 cases, including 3,082 fatalities and 122,781 recoveries.
On Wednesday, Myanmar started vaccinations in Rakhine State and Yangon, Mandalay, Ayeyarwady and Bago regions while other areas are receiving their deliveries of vaccines today.
The Covishield vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India was developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Last Friday Myanmar received India’s gift of 1.5 million doses of Covishield to cover 750,000 people, with two doses per person.
Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that around 750,000 people, including medics, volunteers, senior government figures, parliamentarians and some of the over-65s, are due to be vaccinated within 10 days.
Myanmar has more than 11,000 health-care personnel and more than 10,000 volunteers contributing to COVID-19 efforts. More than 3.6 million citizens are over 65.
The ministry said all parliamentarians are due to be vaccinated from Jan. 29 and senior government figures from the union, state and regional levels will be inoculated together with selected older citizens from Feb. 5.
While visiting the vaccination program at the 1,000-bed Naypyitaw Hospital on Wednesday morning, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urged people not to take the situation lightly despite the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“There might be some adverse side effects from the vaccinations but they should not be serious,” she said.
No recipients had reported side-effects by Wednesday noon.
Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, the director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Epidemiology Unit, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the vaccine should reduce the impact of coronavirus and limit people’s ability to spread the virus.
“Every adult should be inoculated twice with a COVID-19 vaccine,” she said.
She added that people still needed to follow COVID-19 preventative guidelines after the vaccination because the jabs would not protect everyone against the virus.
Myanmar has purchased 30 million doses of Covishield vaccine from the Serum Institute with 2 million doses due to arrive in the first week of February, said the health ministry.
Myanmar aims to supply vaccines to 20 percent of its 54.4 million population under the Covax affordable medicines program and the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation, an international alliance to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach the world’s poor.
COVID-19 vaccines under the World Health Organization’s Covax program will arrive in Myanmar in March, according to the ministry.
Myanmar forecast that 40 percent of its population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. The remaining adults are expected to be vaccinated during the 2022-23 fiscal year.
Since Dec. 19, Myanmar has seen a decline in COVID-19 cases. Fewer than 500 cases are now being reported per day, down from a peak of 1,400 cases in previous months.
Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases in Asean, behind Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.
Cases have been reported in about 300 townships across the country.
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