Blessed: Following the arrival of additional doses of Covishield vaccine from India yesterday, the Zhung Dratshang’s Dorji Lopon and Laytshog Lopon conducted Thruesel and blessing ceremony at the Paro international airport. It also marked the end of the three-day Medicine Buddha prayers held at the airport in preparation for the mass vaccine rollout on March 27.

Followed by his family members and other Cabinet ministers 

Phub Dem and Younten Tshedup

The stage is set. With 550,000 doses of Covishield vaccine at hand, Bhutan will roll out the nationwide vaccination campaign this weekend.

In line with Buddhist astrology, the first recipient of the vaccine on March 27 would be a 30-year-old woman, born in the year of the Monkey. The nationwide campaign would begin in Thimphu.  

After the woman, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering would take the jab while in the quarantine centre. Lyonchhen’s family members would follow him. Other Cabinet members would also get the inoculation on the same day.    

Bhutan received the second consignment of 400,000 doses of Covishield vaccine from India yesterday. Indian ambassador Ruchira Kamboj handed over the vaccine to Sowai Lyonpo (health minister) Dechen Wangmo. 

Zhung Dratshang’s Dorji Lopon and Laytshog Lopon conducted Thruesel and blessing ceremony at the Paro international airport.  It also marked the end of the three-day Sangay Moenlha drupchhen held at the airport in preparation for the mass vaccine rollout. 

With the arrival of the additional doses, Sowai Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that the distribution of the vaccine would begin today for the eight western dzongkhags.   

Touched down: Health personnel in full PPE gear unload the vaccines yesterday

For the eastern and central regions, the distribution would start on March 24.  For the six eastern dzongkhags, Drukair will carry the vaccines to Yonphula domestic airport. “Once the vaccines reach Yonphula airport, respective dzongkhags would come and collect their share.” 

Lyonpo said that of the total 495,000 plus people who have registered for the vaccination programme, 397,640 people were eligible for the vaccination as of last night. This doesn’t include pregnant and lactating mothers.

However, she said that these women who wish to get inoculated could do so at their respective vaccination sites.

The health ministry has identified 1,001 vaccination sites which include 363 schools and ECCDs across the country.

The entire vaccination sites are categorised under 140 clusters manned by a doctor each. For this, the ministry has mobilised resident doctors from the national referral hospital.   

The ministry had also line-listed some 1,200 people who were eligible to receive the vaccine but could not walk. For these groups, a home-based immunisation option is available after the seven-day mass vaccination campaign concludes. 

Lyonpo said that about 8,900 people who are above the age of 70 years would be inoculated in a health facility. People residing in cohorts including monks in Shedras, students in colleges, and trainees in other training institutes would also be vaccinated after the seven-day campaign mode.  

However, she said that except for those schools identified as vaccination sites, the remaining schools and institutions including offices would operate as usual. “Office goers would be given preference during the weekend but if they want to get inoculated during the weekdays, they will be allowed to leave work.”  

Lyonpo said that while every individual receiving the vaccine would be mandatorily observed for 30 minutes for side effects after the vaccination, in the event a person experiences any adverse events following immunisation (AEFI), the person should immediately report to the respective doctors.  

“Some people would experience some AEFI, which is normal, such as fever, soreness at the injection site, nausea, and chill. We encourage them to report as we would be documenting this.”

For those who have missed the online registration for the vaccine, spot registration would also be made available on the day of the vaccination. People are encouraged to carry with them any form of identification documents such as a citizenship identity card.  

While inter-dzongkhag movement would be restricted during the weeklong programme, people can travel after an identification mark (a black line on the left thumb) is acquired following the immunisation.  

Meanwhile, after receiving the additional doses of the vaccine yesterday, Chidrel Lyonpo (foreign minister) Dr Tandi Dorji thanked India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for unconditional assistance to Bhutan’s effort to manage the pandemic.

He said that the second consignment’s timely arrival enabled the launch of a nationwide vaccination programme. The ‘generous gift’ from India, Lyonpo said was a testimony of India’s commitment towards its ‘neighbourhood first’ policy. 

Bhutan was the first country to receive the vaccine from India earlier this year under ‘Vaccine Maitri’.

A press release from the Indian embassy stated that Bhutan would be the first country to protect its entire population against Covid-19 as the country gears for the nation-wide vaccination programme. 

India supplied more than 60 million doses to over 70 different countries worldwide under the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative.