PM and FM also attempt to clear the air on the ‘undertaking’ issue
The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering on a live Facebook session on 28th January said that just like the requirement for COVID negative certificate is required for oversea travels, the requirement of a vaccine certificate might come into effect in the future, since some countries have started asking for the vaccine certificate.
“Those who do not opt to get the vaccine may have to be taken care of in a special manner so that they don’t get the virus,” Lyonchhen said.
The Foreign Minister Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said that an incentive for those who take vaccines will be a ‘Vaccine Certificate’ to certify that they took the COVID-19 vaccine.
The minister said that the government cannot force people to take the vaccine but for those who want to travel many countries and even certain airlines have started asking for proof of vaccination. He said one example is the Qantas airlines asking for such proof.
Lyonpo said that there is a real danger that those who do not take the vaccine may not be able to travel to these foreign destinations in the future.
The minister said that before giving a vaccine, information will be taken in a form and this has been delegated to the local governments. He said that health workers will be screening patients who have allergies, have immune deficiency and have comorbidities.
The forms will be filled and a person will be asked if he or she wants to take the vaccine or not and after signing it will be entered into the online system.
Lyonpo said that for those who take the vaccine this information will be available online and so a certificate can be generated from the online system anytime that they need it.
The Foreign minister said that they are waiting for an auspicious day from when they can start vaccinating those travelling abroad.
Lyonpo said that Bhutan’s second consignment of around 400,000 vaccines is likely to come by around March as this is the time by when India can ramp up its vaccine production even higher.
The minister that the Prime Minister and the cabinet will also be taking the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to inspire confidence in others.
He said there will be a lot of information and advocacy and evidence will also be produced to show the vaccine is safe.
The minister said that even Lopens, Lams, celebrities, leaders etc among others will be taking the vaccine to encourage people to do so.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is meanwhile in talks with Pfizer to get around 100,000 doses but this in all probability will only come much later given that all stocks have been bought out by developed nations.
Meanwhile the Foreign Minister denied that any ‘undertaking’ will be required for those not taking the vaccine. He said that he only meant to say that people should be responsible as those who do not take vaccines may be at the risk of acquiring the virus and spreading it to others.
However, the source of people’s notion that an undertaking may be required may lie in the Foreign Minister’s own wording or words on a BBS panel discussion on 22nd January at 7 pm.
Lyonpo in his own words had said on BBS, “Nobody will be forced to take the vaccines. It is better for all to take the vaccine as it will benefit the nation. However, if those who do not get the vaccines contracts the virus and if there are problems or even death due to the virus then it has to be put down in writing with a signature. We have discussed with the MoH and local governments and as per the protocol every person has to sign a document. The document outlines the benefits and side effects of the vaccine which will be explained to every person. If they want to take the vaccine, then there will be a document to sign and even those who do not want to take the vaccine they will have to sign a document saying they don’t want to.”
The Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering on a Facebook live video interaction on 28th January 2021 attempted to clear the air on this again.
The PM said people will have to fill up a form while availing or refusing the COVID-19 vaccine but this will be only for collecting information and it is nothing to do with asking for an undertaking.
Lyonchhen said the vaccine is voluntary and people can choose between getting the vaccine or not.
“The letter doesn’t mean that the person who doesn’t vaccinate will be punished as this is just for collecting information to see how the individual is protected against the virus. We will provide information regarding the vaccine, it is just an information form and not a consent form. Please do not worry about the consent. There is no implication as it is totally voluntary,” the Prime Minister said.
Lyonchhen said the common flu vaccine is formally approved and the COVID vaccine is only approved for emergency use.
He said other countries are also following the same guidelines.
Lyonchhen added, “For instance when someone goes for an operation they have to provide a consent letter where the disease is reflected and also the immediate long term or short term side effects of the surgery and after knowing all these risk factors, the patient is willing to take the risk and undergo the surgery and will not make the system responsible. However, today’s consent letter for vaccination is not like this one as it all depends upon an individual’s decision to get vaccinated or not.”
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