Myanmar applies for enough vaccine to jab only 1-in-5 people

Photo: Ministry of Health and Sports
Photo: Ministry of Health and Sports

Myanmar has formally applied with an international vaccine alliance for enough doses to innoculate 20% of the population against COVID-19, Health Minister Myint Htwe said Monday.

Myint Htwe said it would determine with GAVI how to share the cost, availability, priority candidates, logistics and other details to get vaccines to the nation’s hospitals and clinics with a plan to begin vaccinations in April.

Health officials said Friday there will only be enough vaccine for 20% of the population in the first year under the COVAX program, and the doses would not all arrive at the same time. COVAX is an international program to fund the development and equitable distribution of a vaccine. National Coordinating Committee – CNCC on December 5.

The Ministry of Health and Sports has also stated that the vaccine will be available at private hospitals and clinics. The Switzerland-based vaccine alliance Gavi is reportedly working out how to make the vaccine available in Myanmar at a low price or for free.

Saw Win, vice-chairman of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group, said the vaccine would be available for under US$5 for people in Myanmar.

“In the second quarter of 2021, we will vaccinate 3% of the population, and by the end of 2021, we will have another 17% vaccinated, and 20% of the population by the end of 2021. Covax facility will definitely be available”, he added.

Proposals for the COVID-19 vaccine will be sent to Gavi today, according to Dr Saw Win.

Minister Myint Htwe said the vaccine would likely go first to health care providers who come into contact with patients, people at high risk of infection and the elderly, depending on the local epidemic conditions.

He said in addition to Gavi funding, state funds and World Bank loans would be used to buy vaccine supplies for Myanmar. On the other hand, the ministry is examining the possibility of connecting with vaccine-producing countries through bilateral agreements, as well as buying directly from private manufacturers.

However, State Counsellor Aung San Syu Kyi has said people should remain home during the holidays and avoid travel. Saw Win urged people to adhere to current outbreak containment measures for the foreseeable future, as most of the population will remain vulnerable.

“Even if we can vaccinate 20%, the remaining 80% will need to wait. So we still need to follow the recent rules and regulations for COVID-19,” he said.

Fifty-eight vaccines have been developed or entered testing. A British woman yesterday became the first person in the world to receive a fully tested vaccine made by pharma giant Pfizer. Some vaccine makers have claimed over 90% efficacy for their products in development. A leading COVAX candidate developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca yesterday was found by a study to be 70% effective.

The outbreak is still raging in Myanmar, where the number infected surged past 100,000 today. There have been 101,739 cases logged since the pandemic began, with 2,151 dead.

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