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COVID-19 Task Force: Plan to Accelerate Vaccination Campaign in Ethnic Areas

The COVID-19 Task Force (CTF), a joint team made up of the National Unity Government's Ministry of Health and ethnic health organizations, said it plans to increase vaccination rates in ethnic areas. The CTF in a statement issued on 20th November will implement its plans to vaccinate people in all ethnic regions and states immediately.

The Covid-19 Task Force (CTF) was formed on July 22 by the leaders of the Ethnic Health Committee (EHC) and the Ministry of Health of the National Unity Government (NUG) to effectively carry out Covid-19 prevention and control measures. Dr. Cynthia Maung, representing the Ethnic Health Committee will lead the CTF, Dr Zaw Wai Soe, the National Unity Government’s Health Minister will be Deputy and they will be supported by officials from the Ministry of Health, ethnic health organizations and other relevant specialists.

Padoh Mahn Mahn, a COVID-19 Task Force spokesperson, told Karen News they will accelerate the vaccination campaign in areas under the control of ethnic armed organizations.

Padoh Mahn Mahn said vaccines will be secured through donation, by buying and by direct assistance.

“The Pilot Project will 1. get vaccines from donations given by international donors, 2. we will order and buy, and 3. obtain direct international assistance. We will work to get supplies from the international community to meet at least 20 percent of the population, WHO’s mandatory target for a country.”

The COVID-19 Task Force to ensure everyone is vaccinated, discussions are being held with the COVAX Facility, UN agencies and international organizations on possible vaccine supplies and availability. Despite some progress with coordination, the CTF said there are still challenges in getting enough supplies of a safe and secure vaccination.

Pado Mahn Mahn explained to Karen News that getting “medical assistance is basically a government to government responsibility, but the situation in our country [since the military coup] depends on international recognition of the National Unity Government.”

Pado Mahn Mahn said the military appointed State Administration Council was using armed force to target civilian opposition groups, including health workers, to control the country.

Pado Mahn Mahn concerns of the military’s use of armed force to target health workers is confirmed in a report released by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and Johns Hopkins University Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR).

“Health workers have been targeted for providing medical care to injured civilians and other health workers have been attacked for their participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which is protesting the military takeover. Violence against health care is increasingly derailing Myanmar’s COVID-19 response and vaccine roll-out.”

The PHR and CPHHR’s report detailed the military’s attacks on health facilities and workers; “90 health workers arrested, 37 health workers injured, 25 health workers killed, hospitals raided at least 86 times, hospitals occupied at least 55 times and 17 incidents impacting COVID-19 response measures.”

The PHR and CPHHR’s research spotlighted the “violence that has marred the country’s COVID-19 response. For example, personal protective equipment and oxygen supplies were confiscated for exclusive use by the military in Chin, Kayin [Karen], and Yangon.”

The report said COVID-19 centers were targets of military raids.

“A COVID-19 facility in Mandalay was raided and its medical equipment seized for alleged COVID-19 violations. Two COVID-19 treatment centers in Sagaing were destroyed by military shelling.”

Christina Wille, director of Insecurity Insight said in the PHR and CPHHR’s report.

“Tragically, Myanmar has endured more reported attacks and threats against health care in 2021 than any country on Earth. Myanmar’s surging COVID-19 crisis increasingly threatens other countries in the region and the global community.

Christina Wille urged “all United Nations (UN) Member States to act to ensure the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2286 and adopt measures to enhance the protection of and access to health care in situations of armed conflict. All people in Myanmar should benefit from unhindered delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, medication, and supplies.”

Pado Mahn Mahn said government representation is a “big challenge. However, the international community, including the UN Security Council, are in negotiation with the NUG government’s health department.”

The COVID-19 Task Force called on UN agencies, donor organizations, and international organizations to donate the much needed funds and medical supplies to help the vaccination drive.

Currently, under the coordination of CTF, the COVID-19 immunization program has been launched in the border regions of Shan, Mon, Karen and Karenni States. Over 1,000 people, including health workers from the four states, have received the first dose of Sinopharm vaccine..

The CTF statement said the ethnic health services vast experience of immunizing children in ethnic areas, could quickly start the COVID-19 vaccination program. The CTF said the vaccination campaign in Mon, Karen, Karenni and Shan states was a successful result of the coordination of ethnic health organizations and the CTF.

CTF said it will develop detailed immunization plans; systematic immunization training, systematic control of vaccines, technical coordination and assistance in the provision of immunization certificates in each region.

The military coup on February 1, resulted in ethnic health organizations and the National Unity Government’s Ministry of Health forming the National Health Committee (NHC) in August this year. The committee was set up to formulate federal health policy and coordinate policies.

Padoh Mahn Mahn is the Chairman and NUG Health Minister Dr Zaw Wai Soe is the Vice-Chairman with 21 members in the NHC.

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