Since the first day of the week-long mass vaccination programme in the country, March 27, 183,271 people have got the AstraZeneca jab.

Unlike in many other countries where debate still is underway as to whether Covid-19 vaccines should be authorised for mass administration, Bhutan has gone ahead with clear plans. What is also unique about Bhutan’s way is that the first takers of the jab have been government leaders which has encouraged the people to come forward to take the jab.

We also have well-organised system to make the programme easily accessible to all who are eligible to take the vaccine. Delivery of the vaccine to far-off corners of the country is one thing, making it available zone-wise in the bigger towns and cities is another. For example, you can go to the nearest vaccination station or point with just your citizenship identity card if you are travelling or visiting your family and friends.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is a viral vector vaccine—it uses a harmless adenovirus to deliver genetic instructions for a protein from SARS-CoV-2 into human cells.

Adenovirus is a common virus that causes a range of illnesses such as fever, sore throat, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, and, even pink eye. But they have the capability to induce innate and adaptive immune responses. Studies have indicated that the vaccine is 80 percent effective without serious side effects. 

We are getting reports of people suffering from fever, soar throat, headache, nausea, diarrhoea and pink eye, but these reactions are natural. In fact, what this indicates is that your body is responding to the vaccine.

There is nothing to be worried about.

The turnout for the first round of the vaccination programme, even as we have a few more days to complete the programme, is encouraging. What this means is that the people are aware. By the looks of it, the second round could witness even more willingness from the people to take the AstraZeneca jabs.

What we also know, though, is that the vaccine cannot protect us forever from the Covid-19 virus. Chances are that Covid-19 could become endemic—it could—like malaria, for example—always be present in a certain population or region.

That’s why, even as we complete the vaccination rounds, we must focus, as we have so far, on prevention. And that means keeping the health protocols at all levels tight.