By Sonam Choki
The Ministry of Health kick-started the vaccination campaign for children aged 12-17 years with more than 800 school children in Phuentsholing and another 700 plus in Samtse inoculated as of today.
The children were inoculated with N-biotech’s Pfizer vaccine and this is the first time the government has initiated the drive as it wanted more time to ensure that our children are safe from the vaccines.
MoH said with relatively higher risk in Samtse and Phuntsholing, the ministry started vaccinating children aged 12-17 years in these high risk areas and more than 1500 children in these covid hotspots, especially southern districts, as of today.
However, MoH said the vaccination program for children aged 12-17 years in the rest of the districts will be announced at a later date. Nonetheless, the registration had started a long time back.
Recognizing the relatively higher risk of the virus in the southern areas, the health ministry this week announced to initiate the vaccination of children in Phuentshogling and Samtse.
However, given the limited stock of the Pfizer vaccine in the country, it is unlikely that all children between the age group of 12 to 17 years will receive the vaccines. Nonetheless, the Samtse District COVID-19 Task Force has identified about 1,600 eligible students from four high-risk areas for the current phase of vaccination.
In the first round, students of Samtse Higher and Lower Secondary schools, Gomtu Higher secondary school and Phuentshogpelri Primary School received the vaccine.
The Incident Commander of the COVID-19 Task Force in Samtse said that all schools in Samtse District have risk associated with the virus but we have selected four schools for now because they are at more risk as compared to others.
He said they have only received about 1,600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, the schools they had selected are located where there is a large population and where the exports and imports are happening constantly.
Wiith the ongoing second nationwide vaccination programme and the gradual vaccination of children as well, students now hope it will speed up a return to normalcy where the learning process will not be hampered anymore.
Children who received their first shots said they were happy and excited to be the first children in the country to receive the vaccination. “With the vaccination we hope that our studies will not be hampered like before and we will be able to study well,” said, a student of Samtse HSS.
Many children said that they were hopeful that there won’t be any more lockdowns in the future and that they will once again get to start their normal classes.
Based on the recommendations of the health ministry, the vaccine is only provided to those students who have attained 12 years of age as of today.
Samtse Dzongkhag has more than 30 schools with a student population of over 14,400. The District COVID-19 Task Force plans to initiate similar programmes for the rest of the students based on the risk assessment as and when they receive the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the European Medicines Agency has approved use of Moderna’s Covid vaccine for children aged between 12 and 17.
It is the second Covid jab to be approved for adolescents by the EU’s medicines authority-in May, the Pfizer-BioNTech one got the go-ahead. The US-made Moderna jab requires two doses, four weeks apart, the EMA says.
The European Commission is expected to widen vaccination with Moderna to young people now, based on the EMA’s recommendation.
The EMA says a study with the Moderna jab, involving 3,732 children aged 12 to 17, found responses similar to those in young adults aged 18 to 25.
In that study, none of those who received the vaccine developed Covid-19, whereas four given a dummy vaccine did get Covid symptoms.
The study’s small size meant uncommon side-effects, such as the risk of heart inflammation, could not be assessed among the 12-17 age group. But the EMA judges that the benefits of vaccination with the Moderna jab outweigh any risks.