Bhutan is expected to receive the first consignment of the vaccines today
According to Indian media, the consignment of 150,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield for Bhutan was airlifted earlier today.
Bhutan is the first country to receive the Government of India's gift of 'Covidshield' vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII). India so far has provided essential medicines and medical supplies including paracetamol, hydroxychloroquine, PPEs, N95 masks, x-ray machines and test kits to Bhutan. Both countries also entered an "Air Travel Bubble Arrangement" on October 2020.
Bhutan is planning to vaccinate all the targeted population at the same time. A nationwide vaccination program will be rolled out only when there are sufficient doses for all the targeted population. The plan is to vaccinate the entire population in their respective communities, gewogs and chiwogs in one week. During that time, movement of people will be stopped for one week.
The second dose of the vaccine will be administered in the same arrangement four weeks after the first dose. The target population to be vaccinated is around 533,000 (deducting the population which are not authorized globally such as 18 years and below, pregnant, or breastfeeding women).
For an estimated 533,000 targeted population, Bhutan need to procure around 1,200,000 doses of vaccination.
According to statement released from the Prime Minister's Office, administering the first dose for all at the same time enhances the convenience to inject the second dose together. It can help to ensure the same level of immune protection for all to be vaccinated over same period of time.
This can increase the overall efficacy of the vaccine for the general population, and minimise or blunt any outbreaks, even in the event of a worst case situation in the post vaccine era. Opting to spread the vaccine roll out over months could lead to unsystematic coverage and varying levels of protection for different individuals. This will complicate the follow up dosages and subsequent boosters if required.
It is important that the nationwide vaccination is roll out on an auspicious date. Upon consulting with Zhung Dratshang, dana (inauspicious month) falls between February 14 and March 13. The vaccination drive is expected to be carried out only after this period is over.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said His Majesty The King has commanded to vaccinate every Bhutanese including those living abroad.
“His Majesty said that money should not be a problem for those living abroad and ones in the country to miss the COVID vaccination. Led by the Foreign Ministry and the Bhutanese embassies, Bhutanese living abroad can get the vaccine. They can contact the embassies and should go for the vaccine. If you have to pay for the vaccine, then the embassies will facilitate. It’s His Majesty’s gift to every Bhutanese. And if the host countries are providing the vaccines for free, then please go for it without any fear and hesitancy, ” said the Prime Minister.
As per the Foreign Ministry’s records, 12,179 Bhutanese are living in 72 countries as of December 2020.
BBS reported that one of the first Bhutanese to get vaccinated is Karma Wangmo and her two children residing in Utah, western United States. The family of three are all health care workers working in different hospitals. They received their first dose of Pfizer vaccine on 26th December. Karma is a frontliner working in the healthcare industry as a phlebotomist.
Karma shared, “The moment we were vaccinated, we were kept under observation for about 15 minutes. And then we are sent a text message asking us about how we feel. As for me, I didn’t get any side effects. But I did feel little feverish and nauseous. No Bhutanese living here received the vaccine except for us, it’s only me and my two children.”