Second round of vaccination expected to begin by third week of July  

Rajesh Rai and Younten Tshedup

Bhutan has secured enough vaccines for the second dose which is likely to begin by July 19 or 20, and complete before the end of the month, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering announced last night.

Lyonchhen said that the government has received confirmation of about 550,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from donor countries. Majority of these vaccines are from the recently confirmed 250,000 doses by the Danish government.

Kuensel learnt that the vaccines are likely to arrive at the Paro international airport by the end of this week or beginning next week.

With more evidence emerging on the advantages of having a mix-and-match method of vaccination, Lyonchhen said that the government had also secured an adequate number of mRNA vaccines for the entire eligible population.

mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna are different from the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is a viral vector vaccine. AstraZeneca’s adenovirus vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus found in chimpanzees to present the spike protein to the immune system, while a mRNA-based vaccine delivers genetic instructions for making the spike protein and encourages human cells to produce it.

Recently, the South Asia region received the first allocation of the millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses donated by the US government to the COVAX Facility. Bhutan is one of the recipients of these vaccines, which is a mRNA vaccine.

Once the vaccines arrive in the country, Lyonchhen said that the government plans to vaccinate the entire eligible population in a nationwide campaign mode, for better coverage in order to achieve herd immunity.

Lyonchhen urged everyone to register with the Bhutan Vaccine system ( starting today. 

However, he said that due to the ongoing outbreak of the pandemic in places like Phuentsholing and Samtse, a nationwide campaign did not seem feasible at the moment. Therefore, to clean these outbreak-infiltrated places, a 14-day complete lockdown in Phuentsholing and Gomtu in Samtse was announced beginning July 9.

Lyonchhen said that despite all the inconveniences, this had to be done to prepare the people in these places to get ready for the second round of the vaccination programme.

“Active Covid-19 positive people cannot be vaccinated,” he said, explaining that the effectiveness of the vaccine is at the highest when the person is not positive with the virus. “You have to be clean. Vaccinating people when there are cases in the community is not effective.”

He said that although His Majesty The King was at his palace, his thoughts were continuously with the people of Phuentsholing, Samtse, and Gomtu who have been enduring the hardships of lockdown for several months now.

Despite the large outbreak triggered by the Delta variant of the virus this time, Lyonchhen said that not a single Covid-19 patient had required intensive medical support including oxygen supply.

However, during the lockdown, he said that if there was anyone with Covid-19 symptoms, they should not resist and immediately contact health officials. “They should immediately report even if it is just a mild symptom.”

Phuentsholing saw six new positive cases yesterday, out of which five were from the same organisation but in two different mega zones. This means that there is interaction among people from different zones despite the lockdown and restrictions.

Gomtu saw 30 positive cases, which were all contacts of the previous cases.

“If a lockdown has to be implemented, it has to be a complete one,” a Phuentsholing resident said, adding that the entire movement of people and vehicles must be frozen during that particular period.

“Movement from Sorchen and even import must be stopped,” he said, adding people’s movement to Thimphu and vice versa should also be stopped. He added that those who are tested for Covid-19 be given with certain identification cards so that no one mingles freely without testing. “If people don’t come for testing, they should be penalised.”

Edited by Tshering Palden