Yangon – India’s gift of 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arrived in Myanmar on Friday.
The vaccination program will start next week with President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi due to be inoculated.
Health-care workers, including volunteers, who are on the COVID-19 frontline, government staff and members of parliament are the first priority.
Myanmar has more than 110,000 health-care personnel.
In a televised speech on Thursday evening, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the 1.5 million doses can cover about 750,000 people, with each person needing to be vaccinated twice.
She said the government gave careful consideration to how to use the doses in the best interests of the country.
“The first priority will be given to our health-care personnel, including volunteers, who are working on the frontline. I believe everyone will agree with this,” Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said.
She said the second priority were those in key union, regional and state government roles.
“I feel a little reluctant to say this because I belong to this category. I believe people will be able to understand that I belong to this group,” the 75-year-old said.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said the third priority group includes elderly people, those with underlying health issues and high-density residents in townships with stay-at-home orders which have high coronavirus infection rates.
Since Wednesday, India has supplied COVID-19 vaccines to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles in response to requests from neighboring countries.
The Indian Embassy in Yangon said the vaccine doses sent to Myanmar are Covishield, produced by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.
“In these difficult times, which are a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we vaccinate our own citizens, we would also like to share our capacities with our key partner countries” Saurabh Kumar, India’s ambassador to Myanmar, told The Irrawaddy.
The Covishield vaccine was developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Myanmar has ordered 30 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute.
Myanmar had paid US$75 million (100 billion kyats), half the amount for the vaccines ordered. The total cost could reach $550 million (734 billion kyats) for Myanmar’s adult population, with two doses needed per person and each Covishield dose costing about $5 (6,700 kyats).
Myanmar forecast that about 40 percent of its 54.4 million population will be inoculated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. The remaining adults are expected to be vaccinated during the 2022-23 financial year.
Meanwhile, Myanmar is trying to buy COVID-19 vaccines from China, Russia, the UK and USA through diplomatic channels.
For the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, Myanmar earmarked $251 million (331 billion kyats) on Jan. 5 and has sought public donations.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said on Thursday the government has received 18.8 billion kyats and more than $2.9 million from donors for the vaccine purchases.
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.
On Thursday Myanmar reported 136,166 COVID-19 cases, including 3,013 fatalities and 119,973 recoveries.
Cases have been reported in about 300 townships across the country. In Asean, Myanmar is fourth in terms of COVID-19 cases, behind Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia.