Nima | Gelephu

While the heterologous mixing of AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines are not studied for use yet, three people have taken this mix-and-match regime in the ongoing mass vaccination drive in Sarpang.

Of 29,505 people vaccinated in the past four days in the dzongkhag, four chose to take Sinopharm vaccine – three took the vaccine for the second dose and one chose as the first dose on July 22.

Dzongkha health Officer, Tshering Penjor said that the doses were given on the request from the people. “It’s their choice and we have to give what they have asked for. Our preference was Moderna as recommended by the ministry,” he said.

He added there was only limited stock of Sinopharm vaccines and it was available only in two vaccination posts: Gelephu central regional referral hospital (CRRH) and Sarpang hospital.

Officials from Gelephu CRRH said that those who have taken the Sinopharm vaccine as the second dose were monitored closely and there were no reports of any complications to date.

Officials from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) said that using Sinopharm as the second dose was not allowed and the health workers were to inform NI-TAG while using the vaccine even as the first dose.

Before the nationwide vaccination campaign, Lyonchen Dr Lotay Tshering, during his live question and answer session on July 19, said that the mix-and-match regime: AstraZeneca as the first dose to Sinopharm as the second dose – was not studied and backed by evidence.

In over two hours of a live session on Facebook, Lyonchen recommended taking Moderna as the second dose to AstraZeneca as the efficiency is much higher.

The prime minister added that many countries, where two doses of Sinopharm or AstraZeneca vaccines were administered, were now looking for a third dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).

Mixing the Moderna vaccine as the second dose to AstraZeneca (first dose) has proven to be more efficacious especially against the emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus including the Delta variant, which is the dominant variant in the country today, according to Lyonchen.

“What we are recommending is taking the Moderna vaccine, an mRNA vaccine, as a second dose to the first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine. This is the regime followed in Canada, Western European countries, and Scandinavian countries,” he said then.

Sarpang received 240 doses of Sinopharm vaccines for the second mass vaccination campaign.

Edited by Tshering Palden