Flu vaccine will continue after lockdown is eased

No adverse reaction from the flu shot reported

Yangchen C Rinzin

The mass seasonal influenza (flu) vaccination programme will continue with preventive measures after smart unlocking is implemented, according to the health ministry. This is to ensure that the vaccines for the seasonal flu are not wasted.

The mass vaccination programme began from December 7 and was planned to go until January 7, 2021.

However, the programme was disrupted following the nationwide lockdown. The programme will now extend beyond January 7. In some areas, flu vaccination was planned to be carried out after December 20.

Senior programme officer with the public health department, Sangay Phuntsho, said although they would go by recommendation from the Technical Advisory Group, the vaccination must continue.

For instance, catchment areas under national referral hospital have already completed the vaccination since December 16. In few areas in the districts, people especially who fall in the high-risk population are called and given the flu shots.

The ministry had administered flu vaccines to 83,700 people in the high-risk category as of December 5.

High-risk population includes pregnant mother, health workers, people with comorbidities, elderlies above the age of 65, and children below the age of two. 

“We’ve covered many areas within the first two weeks with available vaccines. But it is unlikely we would be able to continue in Thimphu and Paro given the current situation with many local Covid-19 cases reported,” said Sangay Phuntsho.

However, following the unlocking process after January 2,  the programme would continue wherever possible in Thimphu and Paro. “If we wait for the entire lockdown to be lifted in these two dzongkhags, which is uncertain, we would be wasting the vaccines,” he said.

If it takes time to restart the programme in certain areas even after the lockdown, the ministry will remobilise the vaccines to other areas where vaccination is possible.

“We must use the vaccines and we can’t wait.  Since it is for a particular flu season, flu shots must be taken for that season,” said Sangay Phuntsho.

The ministry spent around Nu 114 million to procure approximately 550,000 doses of flu vaccines.

Health centres across the country have adequate stock for children below eight years who require the second dose. “If we have to take people to the flu clinic, we will do that and vaccinate,” Sangay Phuntsho said.

Despite several reports or complaints of people getting sick because of the flu shot on social media, no official complaint or reports of any adverse reactions were reported as of now.

Some complained of adverse reactions such as dizziness, mild fever and headache.

“We don’t have a single case of people falling sick after getting the flu shot,” Sangay Phuntsho said. “It’s also not true the flu shot would weaken the immune system.”

The GC Flu Multi-Injection vaccine that Bhutan uses is a WHO prequalified vaccine produced by South Korea’s Green Cross Republic.

The procurement of vaccines is carried out through UNICEF to ensure safety after WHO qualifies the vaccine.

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