The government has launched COVID-19 vaccines on 27 Jan in Nay Pyi Taw and healthcare professionals are the first to receive them.

A total of 1.5 million vaccines from India arrived in Myanmar on 22 Jan. As each person needs to be vaccinated two times, the vaccines are enough for some 750,000 people. The State Counsellor once said the healthcare workers and volunteers at quarantine centres would be prioritised.

This is what we learnt so far.

What vaccine will be given?

The vaccine from India is called Covishield, the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed in the UK. Each dose costs around $5.

The Serum Institute of India is producing over 50 million doses a month, making it the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. 

The vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (known as an adenovirus) found in chimpanzees.

It has been modified to look more like coronavirus but it cannot make people ill. Although the vaccine might trigger allergic reactions in 1-10 people per million heads.

Healthcare professionals encourage everyone including those who recovered from COVID-19 to receive the vaccine since the risks of COVID-19 far outweigh vaccine reactions.

The vaccine is 70-90 per cent protective against the virus. It is said the efficacy would scale up to 90-95 per cent if the two doses are 2-3 months apart. After fully administered, it takes at least 2 weeks to produce immunity. 

Govt rolls out COVID-19 vaccines

Who shouldn’t receive the vaccine?

COVID-19 suspects and patients should not be vaccinated. The former patients cannot receive the vaccine either if the recovery period is under 14 days.

Nursing mothers and mothers-to-be should not receive the jabs, too. Under-18s will also not be vaccinated.

People who have organ transplants, immune deficiency; and those who are on immunosuppressants are advised to consult with specialists.

What reactions are to be expected?

One out of 10 vaccine recipients should expect a lump at the injection site, fever, regurgitation and flu symptoms.

One out of 100 recipients might suffer dizziness, itchiness, excessive sweating, loss of appetite, stomachache and swelling of lymph nodes.

The recipients are advised to wait for 30 minutes at the vaccination centres before returning to their homes should any adverse reactions occur. Each recipient will be given a card with vaccine history. They should bring them to the next vaccination due in 4 weeks.

Who receives the vaccine first?

Govt rolls out COVID-19 vaccines
Health and Sports Minister Dr Myint Htwe receives the vaccine.

Some 110,000 healthcare workers and volunteers are the earliest vaccine recipients. They will be followed by high-ranking government officials and MPs. The remaining vaccines will be distributed to other groups, prioritising the elderly.

Ward administrators started collecting household lists a few days ago. Regional healthcare facilities and hospitals have been set up as assembly points. The vaccines will be rolled out first in the most affected areas such as Yangon, Mandalay, Ayeyarwaddy, etc.

The government hopes to immunise 40 per cent of the population in 2021. WHO regards a country is vaccinated against a certain infection when 70 per cent of its population is successfully inoculated.

The government has purchased 30 million doses of Covishield and 2 million doses will arrive in the next week. Russia and China are potential vaccine providers. The latter has promised to donate 300,000 doses.

Photo credit: Myanmar State Counsellor Office Facebook

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