The first batch of 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine obtained through the COVAX facility arrived in Thimphu from the USA yesterday.
This is good news. Considering how the situation has escalated in the past few weeks, the vaccines’ arrival is timely.
But at the same time, we also learnt that the health ministry has not decided how to roll it out. Even the arrival of the vaccine has been kept very low-key without media coverage or public announcements.
The consignment is not a big one; it will be enough for only around 3,000 aged above 16 years, but it still could make a difference in our efforts to keep this virus at bay. The difficulty for the health ministry could be deciding on whom and how many to vaccinate. Since the bye-elections are here, the decision could become even harder given the tendency of our people to politicise everything.
Despite all efforts the situation in the neighbourhood is still worrying. We continue to see Covid-19 positive cases on a daily basis. What is more heart-wrenching is that some of them are infants and young school-going children.
The direct benefits of vaccination in reducing the burden of disease morbidity and mortality in a cost-effective manner are well-established.
The Pfizer vaccine is 95 percent effective, meaning that people with the vaccine have a 95 percent lower risk of Covid-19. The vaccine will allow society to get back to ‘normal’ and for restrictions to be permanently eased.
Politicising such an important decision must be condemned and not tolerated at all.
There are already some sound suggestions from experts. Vaccinating the youth in high-risk areas is a good decision. The frontline workers were given the Covishield after the week-long vaccination campaign for the general public. This time, young desuups, aged between 16 and 18, serving at the border outposts or frontlines, could be prioritised.
We read reports that the new variants of Covid-19 are affecting young ones increasingly and with greater severity. Our schools are still open and learning from experience, the recent one being the outbreak in Jomotsangkha, Samdrupjongkhar, a positive case in one of the schools in the high-risk zones could spell disaster on many fronts.
The government needs to work harder to bring home the next tranche since the gap between the doses is only 21 days. It has been trying to arrange the vaccines bilaterally. The efforts will have to be doubled up.
If the risks are so great, using the vaccine makes so much more sense than storing them.