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More than 98 percent went for heterologous vaccination

Younten Tshedup  

More than 98 percent of people who received their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine yesterday went for the mix-and-match approach of vaccination.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) said that of the 96,490 people who received the second dose of vaccines yesterday, 94,807 were recipients of the Moderna vaccine; 1,683 people opted for AstraZeneca as their second dose.

About 280 people reported minor side effects, which mostly included headache and fever. One case of anaphylaxis was reported from Dagana.

Most chose Moderna vaccine for their second dose

A majority of the people who opted for the heterologous approach said that it was because of the Prime Minister’s efforts that convinced them to mix the vaccines

A 24-year-old graduate, Tashi Phuntsho, said that until Monday evening he was confused as to which vaccine he should choose for his second dose. “I saw some articles online that stated mixing of vaccines would not be a good idea which is why I wanted to take AstraZeneca this time.”

However, he said that after Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering’s explanation and interaction with the public on Monday, he was convinced to take the Moderna vaccine.

“If a medical practitioner can go to this extent to convince people on how safe a vaccine is, there should be no doubts,” said Tashi Dorji, a businessman based in Thimphu. “I might not know Dr Lotay as a politician but I’ve known him as a doctor for many years now. This reason alone gives me the confidence to believe in him. I’m taking the Moderna vaccine for my second dose.”   Sangchum, 83, from Chapcha, Chukha also received Moderna as her second dose at the RBP Flu Clinic in Thimphu yesterday. Her son, Lhakpa Dorji, who accompanied her to the clinic, said that given her medical conditions, they were unsure whether Sangchum should mix her vaccines.

“I heard that the Moderna vaccine was not recommended for people above the age of 70 and my mother is a diabetic patient with high blood pressure and she also has a heart disease associated with old age,” said Lhakpa Dorji.

However, upon consultation with the doctors at the site, the recommendation was to go for Moderna vaccine for the 83-year-old. “There is no pain for now. But during the first dose, I experienced joint pain after a few days. I hope this won’t happen this time,” said Sangchum.

Dawa Zangmo, 72, from Thimphu also had Moderna as her second dose. “I took the vaccine because the doctors said this was more effective. There is no pain whatsoever during and after the injection,” she said. “I’m grateful to my King and the government for making this vaccination possible for people like us.”

Those who specifically opted for AstraZeneca as their second dose, the vaccine was also made available to all.

“I took AstraZeneca because I did not want any complications later. But I’m not saying the other vaccines are unsafe,” said Kesang Dema, a homemaker in Thimphu. “This was a personal choice based on my own reading and understanding.”

With some questioning whether there really was an option offered before the vaccination yesterday, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that for those who specifically asked for AstraZeneca vaccines they were provided with one. However, if there were no such demands made, he said that it was assumed that the person was willing to receive the Moderna vaccine.

Health workers in some of the vaccination centres were seen explaining to people on the options available.

“If they want AstraZeneca, they must inform the health workers specifically. Otherwise, we are asked to give everyone the Moderna vaccine,” said a nurse.

 

Numbers

Compared to the first day during the first dose of vaccination in March, 10,500 plus people availed the vaccination service this time. The turnout was about 18 percent of the total registered on the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS).

Observers say the overwhelming turnout was because of the delay from the initially accepted gap of 8 to 12 weeks between the two doses.

“People have been anxiously waiting for this second dose. Many now understand the benefits of getting vaccinated as the virus continues to mutate and cause more trouble to people,” said a health worker.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that among the 96,490 people who received their second dose yesterday, 96 were pregnant and about 1,400 were breastfeeding mothers.

Tsirang and Dagana enjoy vaccination in fine weather 

More than 3,000 people across 72 vaccination posts received the vaccines on a sunny day in Tsirang yesterday.

Except for 12 people who opted for AstraZeneca, the rest received Moderna.

Tsirang

Tsriang health officer Lobzang Tshering said: “Since the town is near to gewogs, people from gewogs also visited the Damphu station that was used as a flu clinic.”

There were no major adverse effects except for 11 minor cases.

Pasang, 19, and Kinley Nidup, 22, from Tsirang Dratshang said that compared to the first dose, it was less painful and there was no side effect at all.

A 72-year-old man from Damphu said, “I thought I would get sick from the vaccine but everything is fine.”

However, at the vaccine site, those on duty repeatedly urged underage students to not come after few turned up for the vaccine.

On July 26 and 27, the officials will visit homes to vaccinate the old and those with special needs.

As of 5:30pm yesterday, 3,794 people including 1,959 male were vaccinated across 70 vaccination posts in Dagana.

Dagana health officer Kinley said that more were expected to come in the following days.

Only one person opted for AstraZeneca. There were three minor cases of vaccine side effects and one serious case.

Kinley said that although the estimated target was 15,705 people, there was an observed increase in the number of people across all vaccination posts. He said that there were no problems so far.

 

Most prefer Moderna in Paro, Haa 

As the country rolled out the second mass vaccination programme, residents in Paro and Haa rushed to their vaccination posts yesterday.

A total of 6,893 were vaccinated in Paro yesterday, of which 99 percent preferred Moderna. As of 1 pm yesterday, 930 people were vaccinated in Haa.

Except for a few individuals, most took the Moderna vaccine.

Paro

Elderly people, who could not even pronounce the name of the vaccine, said they wanted the jab that Lyonchhen took.

Dema from Lamgong came with her family. “To get the best possible protection, a second dose is a must.”

Nim Dorji, 86, decided to take the jab considering the risk of the virus on the elderly population. He said that every Bhutanese was responsible for taking the jab as His Majesty the King and the government could procure the vaccine while other countries were facing an acute shortage.

After the completion of the second round vaccination, many are asking if the government would relax the existing protocols.

A resident, Zam said: “I think we don’t have to wear a mask after the second dose.”

According to the health ministry, the government was considering certain relaxations following the completion of the second dose, while the level of relaxation would be contingent upon the vaccination coverage.

The vaccination programme in both the dzongkhags began with Lam Neten taking the first jab.

According to dzongkhag health officials, 95 percent of the projected population took the first jab, and that they were expecting the same turnout this time.

The health team will cover the remote settlements in Paro, like Nubri and Yaktsa, from July 26.

More than 3,000 vaccinated in Trongsa and Bumthang 

The vaccination program in Trongsa began with Thrusel to the vaccines by the Lam Neten and like in many dzongkhags, he was the first to receive the vaccine followed by the dzongdag.

Trongsa dzongkhag vaccinated 1,595 and 2,157 turned up in Bumthang. In both dzongkhags, most of them preferred the Moderna vaccine. In Trongsa, 62 people received their first dose.

Trongsa

Tsagay, 73, from Yuedrungcholing in Langthel said: “I was very excited to receive the second dose. I preferred the new vaccine thinking that it will be more effective and stronger.”

Likewise, Tshering Dhendup said that his family discussed and decided to go with the new (Moderna) vaccine.

As we are uneducated and we do not know much about the vaccine, we have decided after watching the television.

The Prime Minister and volunteers taking the vaccine first before roll out of the second dose encouraged them to choose the new vaccine, many said.

Some chose AstraZeneca because they had no side effects after the first dose.

Trongsa received 8,720 doses of Moderna vaccine and 3,700 AstraZeneca. Bumthang received 540 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines and 8,230 dose of Moderna vaccines.

Samdrupjongkhar expects relaxation after second dose

More than 4,339 people received their Covid-19 vaccine at the 70 vaccination posts in Samdrupjongkhar yesterday. Moderna- Of that 4,268 chose Moderna vaccine, and 71 received AstraZeneca. Seven individuals reported minor AEFI.

The second vaccination in Samdrupjongkhar thromde begun with Lam Neten taking the first jab around 8:30am after the traditional cleansing ceremony (thruesoel), followed by the eastern Covid-19 task force chairman.

Samdrupjongkhar

The dzongkhag has more than 25,000 people registered for the vaccine including those aged above 11 years.

The health officials also collected blood samples from the volunteers to study the efficacy of the Moderna vaccine.

Residents of Samdrupjongkhar are now hoping that the government would lift a week-long mandatory quarantine when they travel to the low-risk areas as they got the second jab for Covid-19 yesterday.

A resident, Jigme Kelzang, said that since they got the second job, they expect the task force and government to relax the business closing time from 9pm to 10pm. He said that people strictly followed the authorities’ restrictions.

Another resident, Dawa, said it had been so long the task force restricted the sports activities in Samdrupjongkhar, adding that sports have been one of the activities where people keep themselves engaged in this situation.

Residents said people who are interested in sports and do not take alcohol have now started drinking. “We expect the government and the task force to allow the spots in Samdrupjongkhar,” another resident said.

Sarpang residents relieved with the start of second dose

After living in fear of a lockdown, residents from Sarpang are relieved that the second dose came before a positive case from the community.

Close to 8,000 people got vaccinated across 45 vaccination posts with over 7,500 opting for the Moderna vaccine in Sarpang yesterday. Over 400 people chose to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Sarpang

Sarpang received over 26,160 Moderna doses, 46,090 AstraZeneca, and 240 doses of Sinopharm for the second mass vaccination campaign.

More than 100 people came to get their first dose. There were 11 minor cases of adverse effects following vaccination.

With almost all gewogs sharing borders with settlements in India, the risk of positive cases was ever-present. Sarpang is the only high-risk area without any cases to date.

A resident from Jampeling, Sherab Zangmo said that she eagerly waited for the second dose. “I was worried of another lockdown and children won’t be able to go to school. Now I hope the situation will improve by the day,” she said.

Sonam Dawa from Dechenpelri in Samtenling gewog said that the people from his community expected some form of relaxation now. “I hope the situation improves hereon. We have cancelled plans to construct a new house because the materials are not available readily. Those available are expensive,” he said.

“There are families who couldn’t travel to meet their relatives for over a year now,” said Sonam Dawa.

Sonam Jamtsho from Gelephu said: “It is worrying too. People start to become complacent and ignore safety protocols once vaccinated. But, I hope things become better here. We expect relaxation but I feel it’s risky to go for it too.”

“We will also have to consider construction and other activities that are on halt because of the pandemic,” said Sonam Jamtsho.

Meanwhile, over 400 routine travellers who are currently in quarantine in Gelephu will be vaccinated at their respective destinations, task force officials said.

In Mongar, of the 29,799 registered, 6,721 received their doses yesterday. Most opted for Moderna vaccine. Only two cases with minor AEFIs were reported, according to health officials.

Dzongkhag has 26 vaccination posts in its 17 gewogs and the vaccination program is scheduled end on July 24.

Additional reporting by Kelzang Wangchuk, Phub Dem, Choki Wangmo, Nim Dorji, Nima, Tshering  Namgyal




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