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Myanmar Seeks Nearly $1 Billion in Funding for COVID-19 Vaccines

By Nan Lwin THE IRRAWADDY, Thu, December 17, 2020

A health worker takes a nasal swab from a citizen planning to travel domestically at a COVID-19 testing center in Yangon on Dec. 16, 2020. / Htet Wai / The Irrawaddy

YANGON—Myanmar’s government is negotiating with international development organizations to secure more than US$950 million (1.29 trillion kyats) to fund the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines under a World Health Organization (WHO) program and from vaccine-developing countries.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning, Finance and Industry (MOPFI) U Tun Tun Naing said the government is trying to obtain vaccines for citizens, just as other countries are.

The MOPFI is currently in talks with the World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain financial assistance, while the Ministry of Health and Sports is making efforts to acquire COVID-19 vaccines at the earliest, U Tun Tun Naing said.

“We are negotiating with them to get loans,” he said, adding that the government seeks $60 million from the WB, 30 billion yen (395.09 billion kyats) from JICA, $250 million from the ADB and $350 million from the IMF.

U Tun Tun Naing said the cost of the vaccine per dose is around $2, and two doses are needed per person, putting the total cost per person at around $4.

In addition to the vaccine itself, storage and other logistics costs will be significant. The government is preparing logistics channels to handle storage and distribution of vaccines across the country, according to the permanent secretary.

Last fiscal year, MOPFI asked ministries to cut up to 10 percent from their 2019-20 budget allocations and reallocated that money to the country’s COVID-19 Fund.

“The ministry plans to ask all the ministries to reallocate funds from the FY2020-21 budget [to purchase the vaccines] if it is needed,” U Tun Tun Naing said.

Myanmar is expected to start vaccinating about 20 percent of its 54.4 million population in April, according to Minister for Health Dr. Myint Htwe.

Myanmar on Dec. 7 submitted its request to the COVAX program at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, an international alliance to ensure COVID-19 vaccines reach the world’s poor.

The program aims to deliver at least 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, covering 20 percent of the most vulnerable people in 92 poor and middle-income countries, mostly in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

According to the MOHS, 40 percent of the country’s population is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of 2021; 20 percent under the COVAX Facility and 20 percent with vaccines purchased from developers that are approved by the WHO and accredited by the Food and Drug Administration.

The MOHS said the remaining 60 percent of the population is expected to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in FY2022-23—40 percent from the COVAX Facility and 20 percent from purchased vaccines.

The ministry said it is also holding ongoing discussions with China, India and Russia through their embassies to obtain vaccines, including assistance with quality assurance verification and the necessary steps and documentation for vaccine imports, and information on pricing, capacity and shipment duration.

The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out in the UK, US and Canada. Recently, Singapore became the first Asian country to approve the vaccine and it expects to start receiving doses by the end of this year.

In early December, Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi promised that no one would be left behind in Myanmar’s vaccination program, adding that government will act fairly.

However, she said the government may provide vaccines to areas where COVID-containment efforts have been successful or areas where businesses can resume, in order to revive the economy.

Source: THE IRRAWADDY, MYANMAR Thu, December 17, 2020

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