Myanmar Military Used Its Own Soldiers As Guinea Pigs For Unapproved COVID-19 Vaccine

Myanmar’s military was given doses of a Covid-19 vaccine imported from India without being informed that it had not yet been approved, military sources said.
The military’s secret vaccination program, which used the Covaxin vaccine from Bharat Biotech, began in January and lasted for three months, according to sources.
Several participants in the program claim that those who received the vaccine were not informed it was still in the third phase of clinical trials at the time.
“They said they would vaccinate us and then check our immunity two weeks later to see if it had increased. One of the officers in the first batch of test subjects said that it was a test.tal in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township, told Myanmar Now that 15 soldiers, including himself, had blood drawn from them three times after each of the two shots they received.
After examining the results of the first 15 subjects, the program was later expanded to include more military personnel.
The first time, I thought they were squeezing blood from everyone. Later, I learned it was just us. “We joked about being lab rats,” he said.
It’s frustrating, but there is nothing you can do since it’s the military.”
According to the person who took part in the program as a test subject, it was ordered by senior officers.
Another doctor in a military hospital in Yangon said they were looking for a sample population of people who had received the shots. Maybe 100,000 people. “It’s sad that we were used as human guinea pigs in this way.”
The doctor, who requested anonymity, said two teams were involved in collecting data from those who received the vaccine.
There was a group that kept track of how our bodies responded to the vaccine-how many people became nauseous, how many developed fever-and another that determined how many antibodies increased in our blood after the vaccination,” he said.
She told Myanmar Now that she learned later that the vaccine her husband received was Covaxin, and not the approved Covishield vaccine made in India, which had been used in the national vaccination program launched by the Myanmar government before it was overthrown on February 1.
While her husband was able to obtain this information because of his rank, it was unlikely that ordinary soldiers who participated in the military’s vaccination program knew about this fact.
As of early January, Bharat Biotech hadn’t made much progress with its Phase 3 trials of Covaxin due to a lack of volunteers willing to try the vaccine.
It has denied conducting clinical trials outside of India, but told Myanmar Now by email that it sent 55 vials of the vaccine to Myanmar in January, adding that this was standard practice when dealing with prospective buyers.
As part of the Indian government’s Vaccine Maitri diplomacy program, another 200,000 doses of Covaxin were sent to Myanmar on February 11. On January 22, 1.5 million doses of Covishield were sent under the program.
India’s Mint news outlet reported on January 27 that Bharat Biotech sought approval from Myanmar and Bangladesh to test Covaxin there.
The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), Bharat Biotech’s partner for producing the vaccine, is quoted in the article as saying that such trials are standard procedure for countries seeking to procure vaccines. However, the article noted that Bharat Biotech declined to comment on the subject of foreign trials.
Unlike Covishield, which is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India under license from the multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca, Covaxin was developed in India. In late June, local media reported that it had been approved for emergency use in 16 countries.
Early this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) received a request for the inclusion of Covaxin on its Emergency Use Listing. The WHO has yet to complete its review of the data.
Almost all government officials, including members of the former civilian government, deny knowledge of the military’s vaccine trial program.
The former Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement under the ousted National League for Democracy government, and the current shadow Health Minister, both denied they were aware of any Covaxin-related programs that might have existed before the coup.
At the end of January, just prior to the military takeover, Health Ministry spokesperson Dr. Khin Khin Gyi told local media outlet Eleven News that the government had no plans to test Covaxin in Myanmar.
In an interview with Myanmar Now on July 15, Dr. Htay Htay Tin, the deputy director of the National Health Laboratory and another leading figure in the effort to contain Covid-19, also said that there were no Covaxin trials conducted in Myanmar.
Dr. Khin Zaw, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, announced less than a week later that civilians had been given Covaxin shots.
Myanmar has already received Covaxin vaccines. “We gave all of the donated vaccines to civilians,” he said., adding that the FDA had approved the vaccines for use, not for trial.
Despite the fact that the Public Health Department may have conducted some trials using data collected from those who received vaccines, he stated that the vaccine had already been proved to be safe and effective by the time it was administered.
According to Than Naing Soe, one of the directors of the Department of Public Health, the department does not conduct Covaxin trials or approve research on the vaccine, although there has been some discussion about it.
“We refused to hold the trials here. Dr. Than Naing Soe, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry under the current regime, said, “We do not want our people to suffer just because another country wants to test its vaccine.”
Although the junta has not admitted to carrying out clinical trials on military personnel, senior figures in the regime have made no secret of their willingness to use vaccines not approved by the WHO to combat Covid-19.
General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup in February, mentioned Covaxin as one of the vaccines the regime planned to buy, along with others from China and Russia.
General Zaw Min Tun, deputy information minister of the Myanmar military council, also mentioned Covaxin in an interview with China’s state-run Xinhua news agency in April.
As early as June, some companies claimed to have received FDA approval to import Covaxin. A local pharmaceutical company called SML announced on Facebook that it was accepting preorders for the vaccine on June 23.
SML received approval because it had submitted its request along with Bharat Biotech’s approval, said FDA director Khin Zaw.
We wouldn’t be able to approve most medicines here if we turned down everything that was still awaiting WHO approval. The WHO-approved vaccines are almost impossible to get here at the moment, so we decided to approve whatever was available,” he said.
Over the past two weeks, the junta’s health authorities have administered the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac to over 65-year-olds who are affected by the pandemic’s third wave. Covid-19 is protected from 51-79% by these vaccines.
China has donated 2.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Myanmar, and the regime has purchased 2 million doses of Sinovac.
According to those familiar with the Covaxin trial program, the Indian vaccine has largely failed to prevent infection.
The wife of the navy officer said that everyone in her husband’s unit had contracted the disease despite being vaccinated with Covaxin.
According to the officer at the Mingaladon military hospital, two-thirds of the participants in the Covaxin trials became infected soon after the third wave began. Many people developed symptoms of Covid-19 despite being vaccinated, he said.
A fever followed by a loss of smell hit me first. After that, I experienced nausea and stopped eating,” he said, describing common early signs of infection.
“Me, I’m not even going to test myself for Covid-19. I’ve been treating Covid-19 patients in my ward, so I’m pretty certain I already have it,” he added.

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