Brokers sell Covishield vaccine on Myanmar’s black market for millions of kyat

Myanmar black market retailers are selling the Indian-manufactured Covishield vaccine online at a mark-up of up to 25 times the original price as the public desperately attempts to protect themselves and their families from the Covid-19 crisis that has unfolded since the coup.

One vial of the vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India, is typically priced at 80,000 kyat (US$49), but locally it has been selling for as high as 2 million kyat ($1,215), Myanmar Now has learned.

While the total number of Covishield sales within the country could not be determined due to the nature of the transactions, local brokers confirmed that the demand increased after infection and fatality rates rose dramatically during the pandemic’s third wave, which started in July.

Mandalay-based retailer Aung Min Ko told Myanmar Now that many people had refused to take the Chinese Sinovac vaccine which has been provided in limited quantities by the military council. Those who can afford it have instead been paying for Covishield, which the National League for Democracy government had reportedly been planning to procure for the public before they were ousted in the February 1 military coup.

“People are willing to pay as much as 400,000 kyat ($243) per shot. The market demand is unbelievably high,” Aung Min Ko said of the two-jab regiment, recommended by the manufacturer to be spaced 12 to 16 weeks apart.

In addition to the vaccine, he noted that he was also selling the drugs Remdesivir, an antiviral, and RoActemra, an anti-inflammatory typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Both have been used experimentally in the treatment of Covid-19 elsewhere.Remdesivir is being sold online at prices ranging from 85,000 to 400,000 kyat ($52 to $243) and RoActemra is also being marketed as a “life-saving medicine” at prices as high as 6.5m kyat ($3,948), according to the sources who spoke with Myanmar Now.

Other local retailers have also been selling the Chinese vaccine Sinopharm, as well as Enoxaparin, a blood thinner, on Facebook since August.

People are willing to pay as much as 400,000 kyat ($243) per shot. The market demand is unbelievably high - a retailer

The retailers said that people were paying anywhere from 1.3m to 2m kyat ($790 to $1,215) per vial of Covishield, each of which contains 10 doses of the vaccine. Some sellers were even charging the buyers 100,000 to 500,000 kyat ($61 to $304) to administer the jabs to them.