15 countries contacted for help by Bhutan
Bhutan hopes to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in the next four weeks so that that 526,000 Bhutanese will be given the second dose.
The Member of Parliament (MP) from Chhumig Ura, Karma Wangchuk during the Question Hour Session, said it has been more than two months since the first nationwide vaccine campaign was carried out in the country. On March 27, 2021, Bhutan rolled out the vaccination campaign and as said by the Prime Minister, the second dose will be given after 8 to 12 weeks. The MP requested the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering to inform the House regarding the preparedness and activities taken up for the second nationwide vaccine campaign.
The Prime Minister said it is exactly 8 weeks and three days after the first dose vaccine campaign, and the second dose is to be given after the 8 weeks but as per the research conducted by the UK, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be given after 12 weeks to 16 weeks which is totally fine.
The PM said that the government is ready to vaccinate the eligible population as soon as the vaccine arrives. The Government of India (GOI) has been supporting vaccines and for the second dose the GOI has the same support for Bhutan. However, knowing that India is going through difficult times, it is not an appropriate time to seek support for vaccines at this moment.
As shared by His Majesty, vaccines are important but for now India is in much more need than Bhutan, said the PM.
The PM said the biggest vaccine manufacturer is Serum Institute in India, and they produce 70-80 million AstraZeneca vaccines in a month and India needs 700-800 million vaccines, which makes it impossible for India to export vaccines to other countries. However, given the good relations between the GOI and RGOB for a very long time, GOI will be supporting Bhutan with the vaccines.
The government is also exploring other countries in the world who produce COVID-19 vaccines. The Prime Minister said there are several different COVID-19 vaccines in the world. The foreign minister is in touch with 15 other countries for the COVID-19 vaccine and out of 15 countries, 13 countries produce AstraZeneca vaccine and the foreign minister is in touch with them.
Some countries have said that it will be difficult for them since the vaccine is not enough for their country and few of the countries like America have said they will see how they can help.
Another country is Switzerland and the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo has already met with the Health Minister of Switzerland. The Health Minister of Switzerland has said that if they are to give vaccines to other countries, Bhutan will be the one.
While for the Pfizer vaccine, the government is also in talks with Israel and Russia too.
The Prime Minister said there are still 27,000 people who are still not vaccinated, and for them, the government is contacting them and collecting all the data of those groups of unvaccinated people.
Bhutan vaccinated 95 percent of the eligible population in the country coming to 66 percent of the total population. The government is thankful for the people’s cooperation for coming forward. The PM said the vaccine is not only to protect from the COVID-19 but also from the other diseases that come with COVID-19.
The Chumi-Ura MP requested an update on providing COVID-19 vaccine to the Bhutanese who are outside Bhutan. Although the government has managed to provide vaccines to Bhutanese outside, there are still some more Bhutanese who are not vaccinated in India. The parents and students have shown concern over it.
The Prime Minister said an extra 62,000 AstraZeneca vaccines are left and everyday people are vaccinated. Similarly, 5,800 Pfizer vaccines reached the country two weeks ago with the help from the COVAX facility and NI-TAG team will decide on when, how and whom to vaccinate.
After contacting the embassies, the Delhi Embassy has said around 60 vaccines are required, 77 vaccines are already sent to Bangladesh, and similarly, Bhutanese in Nepal are vaccinated.