Routine immunization should continue: Health Minister

Tshering Palden

The health ministry is assuring parents and encouraging them to vaccinate their children as scheduled after parents raised concerns with health workers on whether it was safe for them to bring their children for immunisation.

At the meet the press session yesterday, Health Minister Dechen Wangmo reiterated that routine immunisation for children must be continued.

“Routine immunization of your child should continue even during the Covid-19 pandemic to minimise the risk of disease outbreaks and loss of life due to vaccine-preventable diseases.”

The minister said, “The country had invested a huge amount of resources in having a very good health care system and we want that to be protected.”

Lyonpo emphasised on preventive measures including physical distancing, proper handwashing and other advisories have to be complied for personal safety and the nation’s well-being.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that on His Majesty’s command the government is working to administer flu vaccine for everyone.

The message is also part of this year’s World Immunization Week, which is observed from April 24 to 30. Themed, “Vaccines work for all,” the week-long observation aims to promote the use of vaccines to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Bhutan has sustained high immunization coverage of over 95 percent for many years and the routine immunization schedule protects children against 13 diseases. On average, about 87 children get vaccinated every day in the country.

Following concerns raised by parents and caregivers, the health ministry, UNICEF and WHO also issued a media advisory yesterday assuring parents that it is safe for them to bring their children for routine immunization services.

The advisory states that the novel Coronavirus pandemic is a stark reminder that health services such as immunization and other emergency services should be continued to reduce vulnerability against vaccine-preventable diseases.

UNICEF Representative to Bhutan, Dr Will Parks said, “In these unprecedented times, our message to parents is to make sure children receive their routine immunizations while following national guidance on COVID-19 preventive measures.”

WHO’s technical guidance to help countries protect critical immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic complements Bhutan’s effort to sustain the momentum and progress made until now in the immunization programme, the advisory states.

WHO Representative in Bhutan, Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said, “Vaccines are safe, effective and life-saving tools to control and prevent an outbreak of infectious diseases. Doctors, nurses and other health service providers are putting their own health at risk to care for our families. We must trust them when they call on parents and caregivers to vaccinate their children against preventable diseases.”

The health ministry, UNICEF and WHO is continuing collaboration to ensure uninterrupted routine immunization services in the country. The Japan Committee for Vaccines, GAVI and the Bhutan Health Trust Fund also support the procurement of vaccines in Bhutan.

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