Younten Tshedup 

Within three days of the nationwide vaccination campaign, more than 56 percent of the eligible population has already received the first dose of the Covishield vaccine.

As of yesterday, 274,703 people were vaccinated across the country with more than 5,000 people reporting minor side effects.

According to the health ministry, the top three common adverse reactions reported were headache, fever, and pain at the site of injection.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that these side effects were common and not restrictive to the Covid-19 vaccine. She said that the side effects also indicated the body’s reaction to the vaccine. “Except for one individual who experienced an anaphylactic reaction on the first day, there were no major adverse reactions reported so far.”

Lyonpo said that minor side effects could be treated by paracetamol and taking rest at home. “However, if a person is having difficulty in breathing or if they experienced rashes on the body following the vaccination, they should immediately consult doctors.”

For this, Lyonpo said that the mandatory 30 minutes observation at site  following immunisation was put in place. “Should a person experience an anaphylactic reaction, this is the time within which they would have it.”

Anaphylactic reaction is the only life-threatening condition that can arise from the vaccination (to any injection or medication) and it usually happens within 10 to 15 minutes after the injection or medication.

On being transparent with the side effects, the minister said that data from the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS) were collected and analysed by 5pm daily and discussed with the national immunisation technical advisory group (NI-TAG) before making it public. “We’re very transparent with all our data that we gather from the BVS.”

On having similar adverse reactions during the second dose of the vaccination, Lyonpo said, “With adverse reactions, it is very hard to predict anything but if you did not have an anaphylactic reaction during the first dose, the probability of having it during the second dose is unlikely.”

With the other minor side effects, the minister said that it was common, and regardless of any type of vaccines, some people would experience it. “But then there are no issues as it could be managed at home easily.”

She said that while the country was doing fairly well in terms of working towards immunising the entire eligible population, it was ‘too early’ to celebrate. “With His Majesty at the forefront, Bhutan has been very lucky and our entire containment efforts have been a whole-of-a-society approach.”

Lyonpo said that the country has managed to contain two local outbreaks of the disease with strong solidarity and commitment. “We seek similar solidarity during the vaccination too because we are only protected if all of us are protected.”

She added that there was a slight decrease in the turnout yesterday as compared to the second day. “While the overall turnout is good, we would still request people to come and get the vaccine including those 70 years plus individuals, if they can move around.”

Meanwhile, with many people requesting a certificate following the immunisation, Lyonpo said that the ministry in the coming days would make the certificates available from the BVS, which individuals can print themselves.