Bhutan is hopeful of lifting restrictions on tourism after second dose of COVID-19 vaccination

Email

It’s been 9-week since the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Bhutan.

Photo: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

The first dose of Covishield vaccines were administered in Bhutan on March 27. As per World Health Organisation (WHO)’s guideline, the recommended gap between the first and second dose is 8 to 12 weeks.

To date, 95 percent of the eligible population in Bhutan had already received the first dose of vaccines. The record-breaking nationwide campaign was carried out with Oxford-AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccines gifted by the government of India. However, India was faced with the worst COVID-19 surge in April. 

During the National Assembly held on 28 May, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that India had assured their support for the second dose of vaccinations. However, the Prime Minister mentioned that it will be discourteous to pressure the Indian government for the vaccines given its situation. The Bhutan government has reached out to 15 other countries for assistance. 

With a likelihood of delay in the delivery of the second dose, Bhutanese are concerned as to whether the first dose of the vaccine would become ineffective. Member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG), Dr Sonam Wangchuk, said that a delay for the second dose by a few weeks would not have any implication. 

He said that while the plan was still to provide the booster dose between 8-12 weeks after the first dose, there is emerging evidence where some countries had extended the gap to 16 weeks.

“Therefore, a delay by a few weeks should not be an issue for us. This is also because we have already achieved a high level of coverage in the first round, meaning that the majority of the population have received the first dose, thereby, developing antibodies.” said Dr Sonam Wangchuk.

The first dose of vaccination is still ongoing for new individuals who become eligible such as people turning 18 years old, those previously in quarantine, as well as the deferred cases of people with existing medical conditions.

On 25th May, Bhutan received the first tranche of 5,850 doses of Pzifer-BioNtech vaccines under the COVAX-Facility in the region. COVAX is a World Health Organisation (WHO) initiative aiming to get coronavirus vaccines to poorer, developing countries.

Given the limited number of doses, the vaccines that arrived would be enough to inoculate just over 2,900 individuals (two doses for each person). Dr Sonam Wangchuk shared that for now, no directives had come from the ministry as to who would receive the Pfizer vaccines. 

“This is a very small amount for now so I would suggest that we can vaccinate those children in high-risk thromdes like Phuentsholing and Gelephu,” he said. “It is definitely not going to cover all but if we have to start, I think this would be right.”

“There are some countries who have vaccinated children as young as 12 years but for now, we are following the WHO recommendation which says Pfizer is approved for 16 years and above.” said Dr Sonam Wangchuk.

He added that the NI-TAG had to deliberate on the vaccination plan.

The government has been working with countries bilaterally to secure more Pfizer doses to cover all the children in the country. Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji earlier said that the government has ordered about 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from Pfizer Inc., the American multinational pharmaceutical corporation.

Bhutan is also expected to receive 108,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines from the COVAX Facility soon. The procurement of the vaccine and other logistical arrangements including strengthening the national cold chain system for Covid-19 is being carried out by UNICEF. 

During the National Assembly on Jun 1, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji shared that there are high chances of allowing few tourists to enter into the country after Bhutan conduct the second dose of COVID-19 vaccination programme. 



Related Posts

How the small Himalayan nation Bhutan combats COVID-19...

With just 37 doctors, 1200 vaccination centers and less than 3000 healthcare workers, Bhutan vaccinated 93% of its...

May 12, 2021 12:54

Bhutan is set to carry out nationwide vaccination drive from 27...

With the 550,000 doses of Covishield vaccines, Bhutan is set to roll out its nationwide vaccination drive on 27 March...

Mar 23, 2021 11:20

Bhutan is leading in the vaccination race

“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated...

Jul 28, 2021 12:01

Bhutan, with a leading vaccination rate in the region, commenced...

Bhutan's second nationwide vaccination campaign will be held from July 20 - July 26, 2021.

Jul 21, 2021 11:05

Paro International Airport is certified as a safe airport for...

Paro International Airport was awarded the Certificate of Accreditation by Airports Council International (ACI).

Jul 16, 2021 17:43

Bhutan set to conduct second nationwide vaccination drive from 20...

Bhutan received 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine and will be receiving more vaccines in the coming weeks.

Jul 13, 2021 15:12

Latest

News

70-year-old sound healer promotes sound healing in Bhutan through gong therapy

The journey of a passionate sound healer infusing the kingdom with sound healing through the love for gongs.

Sep 10, 2021 12:51

First tourist arrived in Bhutan after more than a year

After more than one and a half years of hiatus caused by the pandemic, Bhutan received its first tourist on Aug 9.

Aug 10, 2021 11:13

Features

Guru Rinpoche, the legendary saint who spread Buddhism in Bhutan

He was born from a lotus, fully enlightened. He went on to become the patron saint of Bhutan and established the Nyingma sect of Buddhism.

Sep 17, 2021 13:28

Atsara: the Bhutanese clowns who are not just clowns

On top of being clowns, they are also storytellers, spiritual teachers, and the master of ceremony. The bright red mask and giant phallus...

Aug 25, 2021 14:09

Business

Yathra weaving, the uniquely Bumthang culture

Unlike other places in Bhutan, the people of Bumthang don’t do agricultural work. Instead, they weave yathra products. Traditionally, every...

Sep 13, 2021 17:06

What are the entrepreneurship programmes and initiatives available in Bhutan?

The Bhutanese government has introduced all kinds of initiatives to promote entrepreneurship. Even school kids are groomed to innovate,...

Jun 22, 2021 16:37

Sports

Bhutan makes its debut appearance at the Paralympic Games

There is much to celebrate in the sporting history of Bhutan.

Aug 16, 2021 11:50

Bhutan competed in the Olympics through historic qualification

Since 1984, Bhutan has been competing in the Olympics via universality invitation, but not the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Jul 29, 2021 17:06

Travel

Travel to Bhutan: experience the beauty of Punakha

Punakha district is easily one of the tourists' favourite valleys.

Sep 07, 2021 15:44

How should I dress in Bhutan?

About to head to Bhutan for the adventure of your lifetime but don’t know what to pack? Fret not. Here’s a guide of useful clothing items to...

Sep 06, 2021 11:49

Lifestyle

The different types of prayer wheels in Bhutan

You'll find prayer wheels all over Bhutan. Inside each prayer wheel is a tightly rolled-up scroll of mantras. Spinning the wheel is...

Sep 02, 2021 11:22

Blessed Rainy Day: the festival where Bhutanese bath outdoors together

The holy bath is believed to wash away bad luck, bad karma, diseases, sins, or any other negative influences.

Aug 31, 2021 11:12

COVID-19

Bhutan is leading in the vaccination race

“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated families." - Dr Will...

Jul 28, 2021 12:01

Bhutan, with a leading vaccination rate in the region, commenced its second vaccination drive

Bhutan's second nationwide vaccination campaign will be held from July 20 - July 26, 2021.

Jul 21, 2021 11:05

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!