More than Nu 72 million estimated for the two nationwide vaccination campaigns  

Younten Tshedup  

The government has budgeted Nu 25.12 million (M) for the second dose of mass vaccination campaign that begins today.

This, however, is a decrease by almost 50 percent as compared to the first mass vaccination campaign where a total of Nu 47.179M was spent.

Officials said a substantial amount was spent during the first campaign on several activities such as capacity building, launching the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS), and the procurement of laptops and tablets for the BVS.

This time, a large chunk of the budget, Nu 19.12M has been allocated for the travel and daily allowances for vaccinators and working lunch during the campaign.

The use of helicopter and transportation fuel to distribute vaccines will incur Nu 1.35M. Data package worth Nu 1.2M has also been earmarked for the BVS system users.

Capacity building of health and other frontline workers including various officials incurred a cost of over 12M during the first round of vaccination campaign.

The district-level expenditure was over Nu 19M then. Nu 1.69M was spent on the procurement of PPEs (personal protective equipment).

Officials said that the expenditure incurred for the two vaccination campaigns were exclusive of the cost of the vaccines, which in turn would have been in millions of Ngultrum. “Given the good relation Bhutan has with other countries, we have received all our vaccines for free. Many countries are struggling to even buy the vaccines today. We are all very lucky,” said an official who requested anonymity.

As of yesterday, Bhutan had 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine, 121,900 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, 68,000 doses of Covishield (AstraZeneca) vaccines left over from the first round, 50,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, and 5,850 doses of Pfizer vaccine.

It was learnt that additional 127,700 doses of AstraZeneca from Denmark and another 140,000 doses from Bulgaria and Croatia would be arriving in the country by July 23.

Besides the expenditure on the vaccination campaigns, the government as of March this year has incurred a total expense of about Nu 4.6 billion (B) on Covid-19 response.

Ngultse Lyonpo (finance minister) Namgay Tshering said that most of the expenses were incurred in the procurement of test kits and PPE for health workers. About Nu 700M was also spent for the quarantine services, which the government continues to bear for all citizens.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that Bhutan was using one of the most reliable test kits in the word today, which the government was providing for free to all its citizens. “Each test is costing us anywhere between USD 7 to 10 depending on how the test is conducted.”

As per the record with the health ministry, a total of 992,602 tests have been conducted so far since January 2020.

Lyonchhen said that samples for PCR test were collected from places located more than three days away (on foot) from the BHU in Merak, Trashigang. He said that to save cost, PPE that needs to be removed and discarded after every few hours, health workers were using it for more than 8 hours straight.

A set of PPE cost about Nu 1,800.

Edited by Tashi Dema