By Phurpa Wangmo
After achieving more than 90 percent adult vaccine coverage, the Ministry of Health has now inoculated around 59,000 children aged between 12-17 with their first dose of coronavirus vaccine in the country.
This figure makes up for 78.6 percent of the total children in the age bracket which is a healthy figure given that countries across the world, including immediate neighbouring countries, are at a crossroads to even vaccinate their critical populations.
Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo, the Minister for Health, during the meet-the-press session Friday said that the ministry is yet to vaccinate around 20,000 children across the country with their first doses.
She said that the government is still left with about 1000 doses of Pfizer and another 10,000 plus moderna vaccines which would be used to inoculate these leftover children.
The health ministry started rolling out the vaccines for children aged between 12 and 17 in July this year starting from select Dzongkhags in the south, and about 59,000 have been vaccinated with their first doses as of today.
Further, health minister Dechen Wangmo said the ministry is planning to rollout the second doses for children under this age group by the third week of September this year.
Lyonpo said the government is trying to procure these required doses, moderna and Pfizer, for children and are positive of rolling out the second phase in the stipulated time. The health minister added that the government is fairly confident that the vaccines will arrive in time.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that while the government is confident of being able to vaccinate our children, he said the problem of procuring vaccines have become a huge challenge as most countries across the globe are not even able to vaccinate even 10 percent of their population while Bhutan enjoys a fairly larger coverage.
PM said vaccine producers across the world are giving priorities to countries that are worst affected and have less vaccine coverage, and that Bhutan was one of the fortunate countries who could successfully rollout their vaccine campaigns.
The UN and WHO has warned countries, including Bhutan, that children and senior citizens remain the most vulnerable to the threats of covid-19 and that extreme caution must be taken to protect these vulnerable groups.
While the government has been successful in fully vaccinating all eligible senior citizens, the MoH is yet to rollout the second doses for children which are expected to start by the second week of September this year.
Statement from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on COVID-19 vaccination of children and young people aged 12 to 17 years said there is also growing concern regarding the rise in cases of coronavirus among kids and the subsequent post-Covid complications.
With new variants of COVID-19 spreading at an alarming rate all over the world, vaccinating children is being seen as key to break the chain of transmission.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for those aged 12 to 15 years old, in May.
Last month, the European medicines watchdog approved the use of Moderna’s mRNA COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 17.