The COVID-19 booster dose is to be given to priority groups, like senior citizens 65 years and older, outbound travelers (18 years and above), health workers, all persons with chronic medical conditions (18 years and above) and all adults residing in the high-risk areas which are the southern Dzongkhags.
The Health Minister, Dasho Dechen Wangmo, said the Omicron variant has been declared as a virus of concern, and it is spreading faster than any other COVID-19 variant, so the booster dose has become necessary, especially for the priority groups.
A booster dose will protect the elderly citizen from severity of the disease. Even if one gets infected, it will save an individual from getting hospitalized, severity of the disease and transmission of the virus, said the health minister.
A TAG member, Dr Sonam Wangchuk, said Samtse, Sarpang and Samdrup Jongkhar will roll out the booster dose in a campaign mode, and the rest of the high-risk areas will roll out in the health facilities, assuming that there will not be many elderly people. While in Thimphu, the booster dose will be given in the Flu Clinic, nearest satellite clinics at Hejo, Motithang, Changjiji, RBP Dispensary and Dechencholing Hospital. The booster dose campaign will continue for seven days.
The rest of the population will be provided in the second roll out where 5 to 11 years old children will also be given Pfizer vaccine, if the vaccines can be procured in time. 18 years and below children are not recommended for booster dose for now, said the Health Minister.
Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said the vaccine coverage for the first dose stands at 99.7 percent for 12-17 years and the second dose coverage for them stands at 92.3 percent. Overall eligible population above 12 years stands at 97.5 percent with the first dose and 93.5 percent with the second dose.
The total coverage is 77 percent for two doses.
“Therefore, the coverage has really been amazing and would not have been possible without everybody’s support and dedication. We are hoping that the booster dose will be rolling out in the same way,” Lyonpo added.
Lyonpo requested for all the eligible individuals come forward to get their booster dose within the seven days. The health ministry is also providing options to the people to choose between AstraZeneca, Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Dr Sonam Wangchuk said right now there are three vaccines available, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna. Earlier mix and match vaccines were provided, and for the third booster dose, some dzongkhags have Pfizer and some have Moderna. He clarified that all three vaccines are the same mRNA vaccines, and experts say that a mix and match mode is best.
Meanwhile, 68-year-old man from Khasadrapchu, Tashi Dorji, who had the third booster dose, thanked His Majesty The King and the government for providing the booster doses for the elderly people. This is at a time when countries around the world are not able to vaccinate its people fully.
“We are grateful to His Majesty, for treating all of us like his own children and protecting us from the virus. I offer my prayers that COVID-19 pandemic leaves the world soon” said Tashi Dorji.
Dorji Gyelsthen, 65, said the elderly citizens are very grateful and thankful to the government for providing free vaccines.
Similarly, 75-year-old Zekom said after getting vaccinated, she did not suffer from the flu.
Many elderly people who came for the booster dose in the Flu clinic in JDWNRH thanked His Majesty The King and the government for showering them with love, care and protecting them in all aspects.