Bhutan was the first South Asian country to vaccinate children against Covid-19

Email

Bhutanese children aged 12 to 19 years old were vaccinated. Immunising the kids was necessary to achieve herd immunity.

Bhutan’s vaccination programme is something the rest of the world could learn from. 

They managed to vaccinate 93% of their population against Covid-19 with just 37 doctors, 1200 vaccination centres, and 3000 healthcare workers.

It wasn’t all smooth-sailing. Bhutan received their first round of vaccines from India in March, who had sent them 450,000 AstraZeneca shots, enough to immunise all the adults in Bhutan.

But come time for the second dose, India was experiencing the second wave of the pandemic. Thus, they prioritised their locals and banned vaccine export. Fortunately, Bhutan received the required vaccine through a few sources including COVAX, a vaccine-sharing initiative.

But receiving the vaccine was only part of the equation. Bhutan’s population is scattered around a landlocked area of varying altitudes. As such, a lot of planning had to go into vaccine distribution. For starters, officials had to map out the ideal vaccination sites. 

To top it all, the vaccines had to be kept at a certain temperature, which added to the challenge. Schools, monasteries, and public spaces were turned into vaccine centres. Detailed coordination was necessary to ensure the storage of the doses, especially at smaller, remote sites. The vaccines were moved around using domestic flights and helicopter shuttle services. 

To optimise the process and keep the vaccine centre operation as lean as possible, the Bhutanese were encouraged to pre-register their details via the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS). The online portal was crucial in ensuring an efficient and safe rollout of the doses.

With only 376 doctors in the country, it was clear that there would be a shortage of manpower. Thus, 50 registered Bhutanese doctors who were undergoing postgraduate studies overseas were called back to help. To fill in the gaps, the De-suups (Guardians of Peace) were mobilised.

Bhutan’s success with vaccination doesn’t stop there. The country decided to vaccinate the children too.

Between September 14 and 17, Bhutan vaccinated children aged 12 to 19 years old

Initially, they immunised only the kids in Phuntsholing and Samtse, southern areas that share a border with India. The risk there was high as India was battling a high number of cases. 

Picture credit: Ministry of Health, Bhutan

After that, Bhutan went on to vaccinate the children in lower risk areas. The children received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, both of which were released under emergency use.

According to the National Housing and Population Survey 2017, around 30% of the 770,000 people in Bhutan are below 18 years old. 

Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, who is also a medical doctor, has stated that it is Bhutan’s goal to achieve herd immunity. This requires them to vaccinate more than 70% of the total population. So that means that following the mass vaccination of the children, Bhutan has vaccinated more than 80% of their population, achieving herd immunity.

According to Dr Sonam Wangchuk from the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG), the vaccination campaign took place in school. Children who had received Moderna as the first dose got Pfizer as the second dose and those who received Pfizer as the first dose received the same vaccine. Since both vaccines were RNA vaccines, children and parents were told not to worry about mixing the jabs. 

Upon recommendation of the government, the Ministry of Health is exploring vaccination for children 5-11 years old with the Pfizer paediatric vaccines. There are currently approximately 83,227 children in Bhutan. The Pfizer vaccine (paediatric dose) has been recently approved for use in children 5-11 years by the USA, Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So far, only two countries, USA and Israel, have rolled out vaccination for children aged 5-11.

However, the Pfizer paediatric vaccine is still awaiting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Other countries that have vaccinated their children

According to the BBC, in May, the United States and Canada were the first to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children aged 12 years old and above. The rollout started not long after that, fueled by the rise of the Delta variant. 

Other than North America, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children between 12 and 15 years old. Following that, Denmark (12- to 15-year-olds) and Spain (12- to 19-year-olds) offered their children at least a single dose. France and Norway also vaccinated their teenagers. Germany and Sweden offered vaccines to children with certain health conditions. 

Meanwhile, China has vaccinated children aged three to 17 with the Sinovac vaccine. Vaccinating the younger age group was necessary if they wished to achieve the target of immunising 80% of their 1.4 billion population. 

Similarly, India, which has a large adolescent population at 253 million, vaccinated children between 12 and 17 years old who have serious health issues. Immunisation of the larger adolescent population would only take place after the adults have been vaccinated. 

Nonetheless, Bhutan is unique because it was the first South Asian country to vaccinate children against Covid-19. There are approximately 80,000 children between 12 and 19 years old in Bhutan. As of August 2021, around 58,000 children from 13 districts have received at least one dose of vaccine.



Related Posts

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

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans...

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022,...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from...

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Bhutan Prime Minister urges children aged 5 to 11 to get their...

Bhutan's nationwide vaccination drive for children will be held from 6th to 12th March 2022.

Mar 07, 2022 14:18

Bhutan will be rolling out nationwide vaccination drive for...

Earlier today, Bhutan has received the Pfizer and BioNtech vaccines for children aged 5 to 11.

Mar 02, 2022 14:01

Latest

News

Progress on Bhutan's Sustainable Low Emission Urban Transport System Project

Bhutan now has 200 electric vehicles on the road, with another hundred to be dispatched very soon.

Nov 29, 2022 18:13

Translation of His Majesty's Address to the Nation at the 8th Session of the Third Parliament

His Majesty delivered the Royal Address on the Opening Ceremony of the 8th Session of the Third Parliament, 4th November, 2022.

Nov 05, 2022 15:23

Features

Bhutanese actor raise awareness on climate change by cycling through Bhutan

Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk launched The Messenger: Ride for Action, planting trees and talking to everybody.

Nov 25, 2022 15:18

Cordyceps Sinensis, the super mushrooms of Bhutan

Cordyceps Sinensis has many health benefits, which includes being an aphrodisiac.

Sep 25, 2022 16:50

Business

Bhutanese streaming platform Samuh is gaining international recognition

Founder and CEO of Samuh, Nyema Zam, recently won the Business Rice Awards 2022.

Dec 30, 2022 19:15

School in Lhuentse embrace entrepreneurship through Chip Production Unit

Bhutan endeavours to guide their youth towards innovation and creativity. The trickle-down effect has seen Tangmachu Central School’s...

Nov 29, 2022 18:04

Sports

Paro FC wins the 2022 BOB Bhutan Premier League

Paro FC wins third Premier League title in nail biting fashion in final match of the season.

Jan 09, 2023 15:45

More Bhutanese youths are engaged in football

Sitting at the 186th position in the FIFA rankings, Bhutan looks to improve its rankings in the years to come.

Aug 03, 2022 20:19

Travel

A tale of two airports in Bhutan

As the slow pace towards a pre-pandemic world begins, two of the country’s domestic airports are going through their own challenges and...

Nov 03, 2022 16:30

What you need to know about birdwatching in Bhutan

The best seasons and locations for birdwatching in the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Sep 25, 2022 16:57

Lifestyle

Chillies, a spicy affair in Bhutan

The Bhutanese love it hot.

Jun 07, 2022 23:55

Bhutan is traditionally a matriarchal society

Women are the decision-makers at home, but something is keeping them from public life.

May 27, 2022 22:14

COVID-19

A detailed summary of Bhutan's COVID-19 management and plans moving forward

With offices and all businesses open, movement of vehicles allowed and critical services resumed from 21st March 2022, Bhutan braces for a...

Mar 22, 2022 11:23

Vaccinated tourists to undergo 5-day quarantine in Bhutan from April 25

What you need to know about entering Bhutan from April 25.

Mar 14, 2022 14:21

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!