Younten Tshedup 

The much-awaited vaccine (approved) for the novel coronavirus is yet to hit the global market. However, once it is available, Bhutan will receive Covid-19 vaccines for 20 percent of the population.

This would mean that 151,226 people of the total 756,129 population would be the first recipients of the vaccine in the country.

The health ministry’s national immunisation technical advisory group (NI-TAG) has already devised the vaccine allocation procedure in a phase-wise manner.

Sharing the details yesterday, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo, said that high-risk workers in the healthcare facilities would be considered during the first phase of the distribution. This would cover about 5,932 individuals.

The group would also include about 35,000 active frontliners such as police and army personnel, and De-Suups. 41,527 elderlies above the age of 60 years and 34,522 people living with comorbidities will also be included in the first phase of vaccine distribution.

As and when the country continues to receive more vaccines, the second phase of distribution would cover the passive frontliners such as individuals who are in constant contact with the large groups (like media personnel). Students and staff of functional schools and institutions would also be included in the second phase.

Children less than 12 years and pregnant women would be included in the third phase while the rest of the population (age 13 to 60 years) residing in the country and who do not fall under any of the above categories would be included in the fourth phase.

Lyonpo said that while many vaccines are still undergoing trials, it would be difficult for the entire population to receive the vaccinations even after it is approved. “That is why people must continue adhering to the public health measures.”

She said that wearing face masks in public, avoiding large gatherings and washing hands with soap frequently would not only help in preventing Covid-19 but also prevent other diseases such as regular flu and diarrhoea.


COVAX Facility

Bhutan will receive 20 percent Covid-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility and Advance Market Commitment (AMC).

COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to the pandemic.

Through the COVAX Facility, all 170 participating countries will get access to Covid-19 vaccines, as doses become available, at the same time, regardless of their ability to pay.

Those countries that cannot afford the vaccines would gain access by having their participation in the Facility supported by the Gavi COVAX AMC, a financing mechanism which will be paid for largely through official development assistance.