At a time when the debate is raging about how safe the Covid-19 vaccines are, some clarity has finally arrived.

Vaccines are working and mass inoculation is necessary.

We could wait and we did. The second consignment of vaccine—400,000 doses—will arrive in the country from India on March 22. And the week-long mass inoculation is set to begin from March 27.

Arrangements are made. As a religious society, we can’t help depending on a “good day, date and time” to start the roll-out programme. Vaccines will be delivered to the dzongkhags and gewogs by chopper. The inoculation programme will begin from 9am on Saturday, March 27.

What must be understood in the right perspective is that there has so far not been any death from the vaccine directly. The cases that are being reported in the media are the ones related to pre-existing medical conditions.

Unlike in the countries that have rushed ahead with the vaccines, Bhutan has a clear long-term plan. We know that vaccinating the most vulnerable groups first is critically important.

The advantage of the vaccine is that, after the jab, one would be safe from Covid-19 for at least four months. Medically and scientifically, the protection rate of AstraZeneca, the vaccine that we are ready to roll out, is 75 percent.

What the vaccine gives us is resilience, some sort of protection. In that sense, taking the jab is important for the safety of oneself and the communities. We have had time to study enough about the advantages and disadvantageous of the vaccine.

The point is that, for Bhutan, this is the right time, when we have next to no Covid-19 positive case in the country. 

But what about the movement restrictions for a week after March 27? The movement restriction is vitally important in the sense that mass inoculation can happen. There is not going to be a lockdown in the sense that we have experienced.

If you must travel, do so, but only if it is unavoidably necessary. Otherwise, disruptions could result which can derail the whole effort and the initiative to vaccinate the eligible groups of the population.

The point is, once registered for the vaccine, you can get the jab from anywhere. But the chances of missing the opportunity are high if you do not plan your travel.

It is still hard to determine how much the virus can spread among those who have been inoculated. Vaccination isn’t the ultimate cure but the best we have, given the circumstances.