Mongolia’s path to COVID-19 vaccinations was eventful. This year alone has seen a protest in front of the Government House, the resignation of the prime minister, along with his cabinet, and a new prime minister, one of the youngest leaders in Mongolia’s history, with a dedicated plan to overcome the disease and revive the economy.
In January, the former Prime Minister Khurelsukh Ukhnaa resigned from his position, backed by a 95.2 percent vote in parliament. His resignation was sparked by popular protests following an incident where a mother who had tested positive for COVID-19 was transported, along with her newborn baby, from the State Maternity Hospital to the National Center of Communicable Disease in a harsh and disorganized manner. The protest snowballed into demands for the leaders of the National Emergency Management Agency to resign, due to a failure to meet the public’s expectations for efficiency. The protest ended in the total resignation of the National Emergency Management Agency, along with the prime minister and his cabinet members.
Not long afterwards, new Prime Minister Oyun-Erdene Luvsannamsrai, age 40, took office and introduced his four main goals during his inauguration speech. The first goal was to “overcome the pandemic in a timely manner,” and he pledged to coordinate a vaccination program within 100 days.
The new government moved to institute a second curfew, from February 11 to 22, and announced a simultaneous “One Door One Test” campaign to take place in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Within the 12 days, one member of each of Ulaanbaatar’s 442,303 households was tested for COVID-19, either at their homes or at a nearby testing station. As a result, 126 new cases of COVID-19 were identified, revealing 33 new clusters. The campaign included 7,279 doctors and hospital workers and 5,849 official workers.
On February 23, Oyun-Erdene, became the first person in Mongolia to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He was injected with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in front of the media, followed by a speech thanking citizens who cooperated and followed the restrictions and official workers who stayed true to their duties during this hard time. The second person to get immunized was the new minister of health, Enkhbold Sereejav.
Now, officials are moving forward on their plan to start vaccinations for 20 percent of the population, consisting of 50,047 workers in the private and public health sectors; 52,750 people working in the front line against the disease; and 58,345 Mongolians over the age of 50. By the end of 2021, the government aims to vaccinate 60 percent of the population that is over the age of 16. Mongolia will be using four types of vaccines: AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sputnik V.
Uranbileg Tumurkhuyag is a graduate of the School of International Relations and Public Administration of the National University of Mongolia and currently lives in Ulaanbaatar.