Nima Wangdi  

Health ministry is collecting information about children between the ages of six months and five years, and those with chronic diseases for the Covid-19 vaccine.

Health ministry officials said that parents are encouraged to register their children on Bhutan Vaccine System. However, the vaccination date is not fixed as of yet.

Officials said that the ministry already paid for the 84,000 doses of vaccine for children in this age group. “We want to collect the data and see if this amount would be required.”

As vaccines in stock would also be expiring in batches, Bhutan will also receive more than 100,000 doses of (Pfizer adult) vaccine by mid of next month. This lot of vaccine is to be given as booster doses for those above 12 years.

The ministry has some 65,000 doses in stock already.

Officials also said that 50,000 doses of pediatric vaccines will arrive in March. The ministry has another 50,000 doses in stock. These vaccines are meant for children between the ages of five and 11 years.

He said, as Bhutan will also be receiving 600,000 doses of vaccine on a quarterly basis in the coming year, and that people should not worry about the vaccine shortage. This includes pediatric vaccines. “We never faced vaccine shortage and we already have enough vaccines.”

According to the ministry’s record, 68 percent of people who are 18 and above are vaccinated with the fourth dose (Second booster) to date. People between the ages of 12-17 years are given until the third dose (First booster) and have coverage of more than 68 percent.

Children between the ages of five and 11 are also given the third dose with a coverage of more than 84 percent, according to health ministry officials.

He said, while most of the vaccines were received from the COVAX facility, some countries have also donated.

The health ministry urges people to get vaccinated as a new variant has been detected in neighbouring countries. Covid-variant, BF.7 is one of the subvariants of Omicron variant BA.5, which has been detected in India recently.

Meanwhile, the government of India yesterday issued a circular asking international passenger travelling from China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand to undergo mandatory RTPCR test before departure and upload reports on Air Suvidha portal from January 1. “This is an addition to a random two percent test of all international passengers on their arrival to India.”

The circular also stated that the test must be conducted within 72 hours of undertaking the journey to India.

People travelling to the US from China, Hong Kong, and Macau will also be required to show a negative Covid test. It was announced during the morning briefing yesterday.

The Bhutan government also urged the general public to continue following Covid-19 protocols recently.

BF.7 variant

BF.7, short for BA., is a sub-lineage of the Omicron variant BA.5.

Reports indicate the variant has the strongest infection ability among other Omicron subvariants. It gets transmitted quicker than other variants, has a shorter incubation period, and has a greater capacity to infect people who have had a previous Covid-19 infection, or been vaccinated, or both.

The variant has symptoms similar to those with other Omicron subvariants, primarily upper respiratory symptoms. Patients may have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, and fatigue, among other symptoms.

A minority of people can also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhoea.

BF.7 may well cause more serious illness in people with weaker immune systems.