Bhutan is No 2 in the world for share of people who got the first dose

MoH Minister says aim is to get above 95% of eligible people vaccinated

Bhutan as of Monday evening vaccinated a total of 468,297 people with the first dose of Covishield (AstraZeneca) which is 85.33% of the eligible population of 548,762 and 60.56% of the total population of 748,931.

This 62.52% coverage of the total population puts Bhutan at the second position in the world for the share of people who got the first dose.

Bhutan left behind Israel which had around 60% and it would have been number one except for the fact that the small island nation of Seychelles with around 100,000 people has a better figure at 66%.

However, in the longer run if more come forward Bhutan could possibly outdo Seychelles and occupy the number one slot.

Other countries in the list who have done the highest first doses are Chile at 56%, UK at 53% and Bahrain at 49%.

Of the total of 468,297 eligible people vaccinated in the country as of Friday 247,941 are male and 220,356 are female. A total of 8,491 people reported mainly headache, fever and nausea so far.

As per the record maintained by the health ministry, almost 548,762 people had registered for the COVID-19 vaccine, out of which 7,000 people said they will not go for the vaccine despite being eligible.

As per the data, there are around 55,790 people who have had comorbidities and have already received the vaccine. The majority of the comorbidities of around 42 percent were hypertension, blood pressure issues and around 12 percent people were diabetic and the highest comorbidities was observed in Thimphu Throm followed by lowest in Gasa being 0.4%.

The are around 1,200 who are disabled and not able to come to the vaccination sites and they will be vaccinated separately. Though special arrangements were to be made for those above 70 most have already turned up to get their vaccines.

The Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said the target was to vaccinate more than 95% of the eligible population. She said that vaccination for the institutions like colleges and Dratshangs had already started.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk of NI-TAG said that the public must understand that the side effects are not exclusively attributable to COVID vaccine but also common for any other vaccine and immunization.

There were around 11 people with serious Adverse Event Following Immunization System (AEFIS) and only 1 that actually qualified having anaphylaxis experience, 2 cases of seizure and 1 was a case of epilepsy because the person was already epileptic and the other one was alcohol dependent and he had withdrawal symptoms and so the person had seizure, one case was stress related to vaccine and some were fear of needles. Once the events are recorded in the system they will have to be evaluated with some being physically verified by doctors visiting and assessing the patient and resubmitting the report at the end of every day

The national immunization technical advisory group (NI-TAG) will look at all the data then validate and provide a layer of classification saying this is the severe one, this falls under anaphylaxis and these are cases related to vaccine related stress, seizure and all the other cases.

Dr Sonam, accepted the incidents might be under reported. However about 4 to 5 percent reported AEFI.

During the nine-day vaccine campaign, he shared one challenges was that people had vaccine hesitancy and another was maintaining the vaccine temperatures of 2 C to 8 C. Another issue is that the people who received the first dose may not come for the second dose due to side effects that they have experienced. He said the first dose of Covishield is most likely to have side effects but for the second dose, it will be very minimal and some people may not get any side effects at all.

The Health Minister said if a person did not have anaphylaxis in the first dose, the probability of having anaphylaxis in the second dose is very rare. She said the other side effects of vaccines are very common and can be managed at home with a paracetamol.

Lyonpo said the benefit of the vaccine far outweighs the little inconvenience of pain that one suffers because it will prevent from getting COVID-19 and the secondly, if a person gets COVID-19, the severity and mortality is reduced. The health minister requested everyone to come for the second dose.

Dr Sonam Wangchuk said those eligible people who had vaccine hesitancy earlier can come for the vaccine if they have made up their mind but it will not be everyday as a time may have to be availed from the national referral hospital or a local health facility.

Lyonpo said vaccines will continue to be made available even after the campaign is over but to prevent wastage it will be done for only 10 people at a time.

The health ministry encouraged people to go for the vaccine and said there is no reason to not get it until and unless they have some medical conditions. The ministry assured the vaccine is very safe and is rolled out in many countries. AstraZeneca/Covishield is the most widely rolled out vaccine in the world.

The National COVID-19 Task Force had extended the vaccination program till the end of April 4, 2021 by two more days. D

zongkhags and Thromdes will continue enhanced community surveillance to test the High-Risk groups. 

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