Children between the age of 12 to 17 years will receive the vaccine

Younten Tshedup  

The biggest consignment of Pfizer vaccine, about 200,000 doses will land at the Paro international airport today.

The arrival, however, is contingent upon favourable weather, said Sowai Lyonpo (Health Minister) Dechen Wangmo last night. The consignment was due yesterday but owing to the non-availability of flights, it was delayed.

This is the first consignment of vaccines that the government is purchasing from the vaccine company, Pfizer Inc., an American multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology corporation.

Pfizer vaccine would be given to children between 12 and 17 years

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that the Pfizer vaccines would be used to inoculate children between the age of 12 and 17 years. As of yesterday, 59,759 children (12 to 17 years) in 13 dzongkhags have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Children in this age group residing in Phuentsholing and Samtse received their first dose of Pfizer vaccine between July 22 and 23. They were given Moderna vaccine for their second dose upon the recommendation of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) last month.

The health ministry also used Moderna vaccine to inoculate children in 13 dzongkhags — Chukha, Dagana, Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Thimphu, Paro, Trashigang, Tsirang, Trashiyangtse, and Haa.   

Health officials said that due to the lack of vaccines, children in the remaining seven dzongkhags could not be vaccinated.   

“Now that we are receiving a good quantity of vaccines, we should be able to vaccinate all children in this age group throughout the country,” said one of the officials.

The official said that the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine was on time as children in the 13 dzongkhags were almost due for their second dose. The NI-TAG has recommended a gap of four to eight weeks between the two doses for children.

Although a specific date to roll out the second dose for 59,000 plus children and the first dose for more than 16,000 children in seven dzongkhags has not been decided, health officials said that the rollout could begin from the second week of September.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in an earlier interview said that given the global shortage of vaccines, it was difficult to secure adequate vaccines for both children and adults. However, Lyonchhen said that the government was in constant consultation with the vaccine manufacturers to get in the vaccines at the earliest.

Lyonchhen added that the manufacturers of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines — the only two Covid-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in children — had submitted proposals for approval to use their vaccines in children above the age of six. “Should this be approved, we have made all arrangements so that we have an adequate number of vaccines to cover all eligible populations in the country.”

There are over 100,000 children above the age of six in the country.

In the meantime, it was learnt that the government was also preparing to secure additional Moderna vaccines. Sources said that the government had placed a request for over 145,000 Moderna vaccines from the United States.

Once all eligible children are vaccinated, health officials said that achieving the theoretical herd immunity coverage, which is more than 80 percent of the total population in the country, would become more realistic.

So far, 65 percent of the total population have been fully vaccinated (both doses) and 76.5 percent of the total population have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Edited by Tshering Palden