Younten Tshedup  

Close to 46,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 years received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine as of yesterday, taking the vaccination coverage to 60.5 percent in this age group.

These are the children in the nine high-risk dzongkhags of Chukha, Dagana, Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Thimphu, and Paro.

As per the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) adjusted projected population for 2021, there are 75,960 children between the ages of 12 and 17 years in the country.

To vaccinate additional children with the remaining dose of Modern vaccine, the health ministry yesterday announced that children in Trashigang, Trashiyangtse, and Haa would receive the vaccines next.

The dzongkhags were identified based on a risk assessment, according to health officials.

There are close to 9,500 children in these three dzongkhags.

With over 5,500 children, Trashigang has the highest number of children, followed by Trashiyangtse with 2,289 children. Haa has 1,675 children in this age group.

Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo said that the country had over 10,000 doses of Moderna vaccine remaining afterthe end of the vaccination in the nine high-risk dzongkhags which can cover only the three identified dzongkhags.

However, towards the evening yesterday, Lyonpo said that Samtse reported that the dzongkhag had some 290 vials (2,900 doses) of Moderna vaccine left. The number of children between 12 and 17 years in Tsirang was also around the same. “We then decided that these doses could be used in Tsirang given its close proximity to Sarpang, which is a high-risk dzongkhag.”

Close to 12,000 children are expected to be vaccinated this time.

Should the ministry be successful in inoculating all the identified children in these four dzongkhags, the vaccination coverage in children would be around 76 percent, said the minister.

The vaccines are expected to arrive in the four dzongkhags by today and the four-day vaccination programme would begin from August 12.

In the meantime, the government is also preparing to secure additional Moderna vaccines to vaccinate remaining children and for their second dose. Sources said that the government had placed a request for over 145,000 Moderna vaccines from the United States.

The government has also placed an order to purchase 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from the United States.

Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that the government was hopeful to receive the vaccines within the stipulated time—between four and eight weeks after receiving the first dose.

The two mRNA vaccines—Pfizer and Moderna—are the only vaccines approved for emergency use in children between the age of 12 and 17 years so far.