… govt. trying to bring vaccines for children as soon as possible

Phub Dem

The health ministry’s plan to roll out Covid-19 booster dose for the general population on January 24 is now on hold owing to the lockdown and movement restrictions.

According to National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) member Dr Sonam Wangchuk, the booster rollout would have started by now if it weren’t for the lockdown.

Considering the risk of infection and crowding at the moment, the rollout was deferred until the lockdown ends. However, he said that the ministry would roll out the booster dose for those dzongkhags in the green zone. “We will roll out the booster dose as soon as the lockdown is lifted.”

He said that the ministry was ready with the vaccination programme and that the vaccines were already deployed to the dzongkhags.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that except for those between 18 and 64 years without medical conditions living in low-risk areas, 98.8 percent of priority and the high-risk groups were given the booster dose. “The ministry deferred the vaccination programme not to complicate the situation when the 70 percent of the dzongkhags went through lockdowns, and there is a potential outbreak.”

The priority groups include 18 years and above residing in high-risk areas; those above 65 years; people above 18 and living with chronic medical conditions; health workers; front-liners; and outbound travellers.

Lyonchhen said that efforts were underway to secure vaccination for children aged five to 11-year-old and two to four years old against Covid-19. The government has completed the financial norms and sorted out the legal document.

He said that Pfizer agreed to send the vaccines, but it was difficult to confirm the exact date of arrival. “As the nation is threatened with another outbreak, unvaccinated children are at higher risk as they don’t have immune protection. We’ll get it as soon as possible.”

Lyonchhen said that the health and foreign affairs ministry were exploring a source of vaccine for the fourth dose (second booster), as some countries had already rolled out the vaccines.

Although it is not mandatory, Lyonchhen said there is a requirement for a second booster.

“If we order the vaccines now there are chances that the vaccine we buy may not be effective later. The government is discussing and considering such risk factors as well,” he said.

Currently, the country has 370,000 doses of vaccine.

The ministry received 150,000 doses of Moderna on January 14 to roll out the booster dose for about 300,000 populations. In phase-I, the ministry has completed the booster dose program for general populations in Samtse, Sarpang, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Chhukha.

With the completion of booster dose vaccination in four dzongkhags, the vaccine coverage stands at 98.8 percent for priority and the high-risk group.

Meanwhile, 97.5 percent of the eligible population (above 12 years) are vaccinated with the first dose and 93.5 percent with the second dose.