The Bhutanese in a telephonic press conference asked the US State Department Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response, Gayle E. Smith, about what had happened to Bhutan’s request for around half a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, when it’s FDA would approve its 60 million AstraZeneca doses for export and how much Bhutan would receive given that Bhutan’s second dose is due by the end of this month.
Gayle E. Smith said, “Yours is a really important question. There are many countries who have been able to do, to some extent, the first shot in the vaccine series but don’t have the supplies to do the second shot. We’re well aware of that and AstraZeneca is key on that. As you rightly suggest, our ability to deploy those AZ vaccines depends on receiving clearance from the FDA.”
She said the FDA, which is the Food and Drug Administration, is a regulatory public health agency, and one of the most important elements of any regulatory agency is that it has independence so they cannot interfere.
Gayle said it needs to have the autonomy required to do all the studies it needs to do to make a determination.
“So we are hopeful we will get a clearance soon. We are not in a position to say when that will come true because that’s the purview of the FDA,” she said.
She told The Bhutanese in terms of dose amounts, that is something that is going to be worked out in consultation with a number of the parties involved and based on the type of vaccine.
According to government sources Bhutan is expected to get some vaccines from the USA.
Earlier, Jeffrey Dunston Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator in a press briefing clarified that the 25 mn doses being sent out to various countries are a mixture of Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna which got Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for use in the USA.
Bhutan was not in the list of countries getting this first batch of 25 mn vaccines. Almost all South Asian countries were on the list.
According to the Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji Bhutan was informed a day earlier that it is not the first batch as it does not meet the urgency criteria there.
Jefferey said the 60 mn AstraZeneca doses are awaiting FDA concurrence before they can be sent.
This update was important as Bhutan has requested for the AstraZeneca doses from USA for its second dose which is due by the end of June after a 12-week gap.
This means there is still some hope for Bhutan to possibly get some AstraZeneca doses from the USA whenever FDA approval is given there.
India had committed to supply vaccines to Bhutan but given a massive second wave, India is facing its own shortages along with an export ban.
While India has made an overall commitment the timeline is not certain given its needs and Bhutan does not want to request India too much given the situation there.