… Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji clarifies on misconceptions

Younten Tshedup  

The government will not be taking any form of ‘undertaking’ from the public on the Covid-19 vaccination programme, Chidrel Lyonpo (foreign minister) Dr Tandi Dorji clarified yesterday.

The minister said that what he had stated earlier on mainstream media was that the government during the process of explaining the details of the vaccine and the mass vaccination programme, would also collect informed consent from the public.

Lyonpo said that informed consent is a process that’s required for most medical procedures. Generally, a consent form is filled by a patient after a healthcare professional explains a medical treatment to him or her before the patient agrees to the treatment.

“Like in most medical procedures, like a surgery, a consent would be sought from people this time also because the vaccine is new,” he said. “Of course, we’ll be explaining everything to them including details on safety. We would be also taking the vaccines ourselves.”

He explained that the consent would be collected to keep track of who gets the jab and who doesn’t. “Those who wish not to take the vaccine can do so because the vaccination is not compulsory for all. But it is important that we know who all are not taking it so that we are aware that these people are vulnerable to infection.”

He added, “This is not done to harm, target or deny anyone of any treatments. Those who get the infection after not taking the vaccine would be treated in the same way that we are currently doing.”

Responding to the scepticisms surrounding the vaccine, last week Lyonpo said that the health ministry would inform, educate, and communicate the benefits of the vaccines, adding that the process has already started.

He said that getting the vaccine would reduce the risk of infection and also help in stopping the spread of transmission, adding that once the mass vaccination rolls out cabinet ministers, health professionals, dzongkhag officials, and local leaders, among others would take the jab.

On administering the vaccines on referral patients, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that if there are some counter-indications including acute illnesses among the patients, they would not be vaccinated.

Besides children below 18 years, breastfeeding and lactating mothers, the Covid-19 vaccine, for now, is not recommended for people with an immune-compromised state for instance terminally ill and HIV patients.

However, the minister said that it gave all the more reason for sick people with pre-existing medical conditions to get the vaccination. The risk of developing severe sickness from Covid-19 is more among the elderlies and people with comorbidities.

Bhutanese travelling abroad would also be vaccinated. However, Lyonpo said that for the second dose of vaccine, they should try to arrange from the host countries.

“If they can get both the doses, it would be better. But even with the first dose, you get adequate protection of about 60 percent,” he said.

Meanwhile, besides the mass vaccination dates, the government is yet to decide on the duration between the first and second doses.

Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said that experts have said, the longer the duration between the two doses, the better would be its immune response.