Choki Wangmo

Waste produced from the mass Covid-19 vaccination will be autoclaved, health officials say.

Officiating director of the Department of Medical Services, Tandin Dorji, said there are protocols within the ministry to manage such waste.

“All dzongkhags have autoclave machines of varying sizes to curb medical waste,” he said.

Online sources state an autoclave is a machine that provides a physical method of sterilisation by killing bacteria, viruses, and even spores present in the material put inside of the vessel using steam under pressure.

An autoclave sterilises the materials by heating them up to a particular temperature for a specific period of time.

Waste handlers claim the medical waste is classified under hazardous waste and they have no involvement in collection and handling, as it will be directly collected from the vaccination centres to be autoclaved.

Tandin Dorji said hazardous or infectious medical waste is collected in sharp containers and picked up from healthcare facilities and transported to processing centres to be autoclaved. “It’s sanitised with high-pressure steam in an autoclave machine and then sent to landfill along with other kinds of waste.”

The National Waste Management Strategy 2019 says that there are no adequate resources and facilities to manage hazardous medical waste in the country, which mostly ends up in the landfills without proper treatment.

“Medical waste generated across the country is increasing at a rate of about 15 to 20 percent each year as a result of the growing range of medical service provisions,” the strategy states.

In 2017 alone, the medical waste produced from healthcare facilities increased by 13.2 percent, from 378 to 428 metric tonnes.

Although there are no published records yet, the number is expected to increase due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Centre for Disease Control states that medical waste from Covid-19 should be managed as a category B waste that contains infectious substance but not in a form that causes permanent disability or life-threatening or fatal diseases.

Meanwhile, more than 500,000 people have registered for the weeklong Covid-19 vaccination as of yesterday.