Photo Courtesy: BBC

Enough to vaccinate 65 to 75% of Bhutanese population for Community protection against COVID

If Bhutan receives the COVID-19 vaccine, an important factor will be the type of vaccine that Bhutan gets and the amount it receives.

Clinical microbiologist and Technical Advisory Group member, Dr Tshokey said there are some vaccines that has been licensed. Before Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, there is a Chinese vaccine that has been used in many countries, especially in the Middle East but Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), was not really approved for it.

He said the Pfizer vaccine is the one that is now formally approved and a lot of vaccines are on the way.

He said the COVID-19 vaccine has already come but which one Bhutan will get is not yet decided. Bhutan has a strategy in place as to how to distribute it, and the health ministry is still working on acquiring the vaccine.

Bhutan is a member of COVAX facility and through that all countries will receive enough vaccine to vaccinate 20 percent of the population. He said Bhutan will definitely get its share through the COVAX facility.

He said some vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech) requires minus 70 degree freezers which even if the government buys, will be logistically very difficult and although COVID-19 vaccines are all competent, it will be hard to know which one will make good impression on the public or will have a good market.

The ministry and the government are assessing the effectiveness and practicality of the vaccines.

Dr Tshokey said to protect the community, 100 percent vaccination is not required. If at least 65-75 percent of the population are vaccinated, then the rest will be protected through community protection. So Bhutan does not need all its people to be vaccinated.

“We have to be very careful about the success of the vaccine since it is in a very early stage. 70 percent to 90 percent success is a good indication, but how long will that antibody last and whether that antibody will protect you from infection or not still needs to be assessed,” said Dr Tshokey.

If a person gets vaccinated, and it is 70 percent effective which means there is 70 percent  chance that the person will develop antibody and will not get the virus. And if it’s 30 percent then the person will not develop antibody and will get the virus.

The first priority for the vaccine will be given to health workers because they have to deal with the positive cases and people with Comorbidities, elderly and children.

Ministry of Health is ready with approved guidelines as to how COVID-19 vaccine will be allocated in the country when the vaccine comes. The vaccines will be given in four phases.

Phase 1 will be health workers, active frontliners, elderly population and those with diseases. Phase 2 is passive frontliners (media), students of 12 years and above and staff of schools and colleges. Phase 3 is pregnant women and children less than 12 years. Phase 4 is rest of the population.

Bhutan on Tuesday recorded 438 confirmed cases, 34 active cases and 404 recovered so far.

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