Prime minister responds to questions on Covid-19 vaccines 

Younten Tshedup  

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering will be among the first recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country.

Lyonchhen shared this during a “casual” live session on Facebook last evening where he responded to questions on the Covid-19 vaccine.

Lyonchhen said he will take the jab, but not to convince the people or to play a political game. “I will take the vaccine for my own protection. If there are no benefits of taking the vaccine, will I still go on and take the vaccine just to convince the public? No, I will not,” he said. “I will not mislead the nation. It is not a political game or to show to others how courageous I am. I’m a professional and I know the vaccine has a high level of protection, which is why I’ll take the jab, 100 percent.”

On the entire cabinet taking the vaccine to boost public confidence, Lyonchhen said that because the decision to take the vaccine was voluntary, he cannot comment on behalf of his cabinet colleagues.

Lyonchhen said that the biggest advantage of getting the vaccine was that it protected the recipient first. Lyonchhen explained that like any other vaccines, the Covid-19 vaccine (Covishield or Oxford-AstraZeneca in this case) could work in two ways. He said that the vaccine could provide total protection against the infection or help in keeping individuals from developing serious conditions following the infection.

He said that although not all people who receive the jab would achieve full protection against the infection, at least 50 percent of the recipients would. “Which is why if the efficacy of the vaccine is not above 50 percent, it would not receive approval for human trails in the first place.”

The second scenario he explained was that some vaccine recipients could still get infected but would not develop any symptoms or become sick. In this condition the individual despite not becoming sick could spread the infection to others who are still susceptible to the infection.

In either case, the prime minister said that the person who gets the vaccine benefits the most — remain 100 percent protected or remain asymptomatic even after contracting the infection.

Side effects?

The prime minister also clarified on the safety aspects of the vaccine. He said that the reason some of the vaccines had received the emergency use authorisation (EUA) was because they passed all the three phases of the clinical trials.

In terms of safety, Lyonchhen said that no major side effects were recorded. “And definitely there are no life-threatening side effects from the vaccine that have received the EUA.”

However, he said that there would be some local side effects which is an innate quality of any other vaccine. He said that there are some 12 vaccine-preventable diseases today and these vaccines, despite being effective, have some local side effects.

Although the immune protection differs from one vaccine to another, he said that because these vaccines did not have harmful or life-threatening side effects, it received the EUA in the first place.

He further explained that when a vaccine is administered, reactions such as swelling on the point of the injection, fatigue, and fever among others are bound to happen. “But these are not side effects. This is an indication of your body’s immune system reacting to the vaccine, which is expected.”

The antigen present in the vaccine triggers the immune system in the body to produce antibodies. The antigen-antibody reaction leads to swelling on the place of injection, he said.  “This is a good sign. For some it would be a little painful but for most, it would be just a mild pain. There is no need to worry.”

Lyonchhen also responded to questions on the storage capacity, duration between the first and second doses, seeking public consent while administering the Covid-19 vaccine, other vaccine options, and mutation and the effectiveness of the current vaccines.

Responding to a question on accountability, he said that because the government was responsible in protecting the public from the pandemic and also treating those infected, it would also take ‘100 percent’ accountability should there be any mishaps following the vaccination including taking care of those who would show some side effects.

“His Majesty has commanded us to carefully study the efficacy of the vaccines and how best it would benefit the public including all the side effects, immediate and future.”

He added, “But what kind of accountability will that be because to take the vaccine or not, it is voluntary.” However, he said that should there be any sort of negligence from the healthcare professionals, which would then lead to some issues, there already were guidelines and regulations to look after it.