With the arrival of 1.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses from India, January 22 may have marked the beginning of the end of Myanmar’s COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to reporters, Indian ambassador Saurabh Kumar called the free doses a “gift from India to Myanmar,” in the spirit of cooperation. As in other countries, healthcare workers and the elderly will be the first to be vaccinated. Members of parliament are also scheduled to be vaccinated before the next session on February 1. (Incidentally, two MPs recently tested positive for the virus.) In the long term, the government aims to vaccinate at least 40% of its population by the end of this year, according to The Myanmar Times.
The early vaccine shipment from India is something of a political victory against China, which has pledged a donation of 300,000 doses of its own vaccine. This week’s editorial in Frontier pointed out that such donations — from countries struggling to vaccinate their own people, let alone their neighbors — highlight Myanmar’s growing political significance. “[T]he favourable geopolitics that have helped secure these doses could work for the country in ways that go well beyond vaccine diplomacy,” the column said.
At the time of writing, Myanmar has reported around 140,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases to date.