Gearing up for the second jab

With more vaccines due to arrive, the government is affirmative about administering the second dose on the stipulated deadline day

By Tashi Namgyal

If everything goes well, Bhutan could well be on delivering the second dose of the covid-19 vaccinations by the end of July.

With talks already making headway among 18 countries to secure the doses needed for the second round, Denmark this week announced that it would donate 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Bhutan as soon as possible.

The countries who have agreed to donate vaccines to Bhutan have all agreed to deliver the vaccines within the stipulated time period of 16 weeks at any cost and the government hopes to get their affirmation in a few days’ time.

Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive earlier, in about a week or so, as the successful deliverance of the first dose in the country under His Majesty’s wise leadership caught the attention of the company who believes that their vaccines would be used wisely to inoculate all the eligible population in Bhutan.

The government has requested for atleast upto 350,000 doses from the European Union (EU) countries alone. The government has also placed an order for 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines and requested to make the delivery sooner.Securing Pfizer has an added advantage as it can also be used to vaccinate children above the age of 12.

Bhutan is also one of the recipients of Covid-19 vaccines donated by the US government to the COVAX Facility. The Facility has already delivered its first batch for South Asia this week.

In order to achieve herd immunity, the government expects to cover 85 percent of the eligible population within 10 days. After that, the government will then review on the immunity coverage of the second dose and if it is more than 80 percent, some of the covid protocols which are currently in place will be relaxed.

Although the initial gaps between the first and second doses were between 8 to 12 weeks, research conducted in UK found that the gap could be extended upto 16 weeks. Bhutan could not administer the second dose within the 12th week because of the shortage in vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, to strengthen the country’s response to increasing number of Covid-19 cases, Bhutan Foundation handed over essential health equipment, medical transport vehicles, and PPE worth USD 259,000 to the Health Ministry this week.

The donation included an autoclave machine to sterilize medical equipment at the Mongar Hospital, 110 oxygen cylinders for distribution to different hospitals, a bio-decontamination machine for the Royal Center for Disease Control, two medical trucks for transport of medical supplies, and 17,368 N95 masks for medical use.

The support is part of the USD 1 million in assistance USAID provided to the Bhutan Foundation to strengthen Bhutan’s healthcare capacity for pandemic prevention, readiness and response, and support microenterprises.

Bhutan reported a total of 2,052 confirmed cases of coronavirus as of June end this year.

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