Flu vaccine for general population to start by end of November

A total of 74,027 high risk or vulnerable people have been vaccinated as of 10th November and it is still going on. So by the end of November this year, the general population will start receiving the flu vaccine.

Health Minister Dechen Wangmo said a lot of people are seen over-crowding in some of the health facilities for the flu vaccine. So in order to avoid crowds, the health ministry is planning to provide flu vaccine for the general population especially in the bigger towns through satellite clinics and not in Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

The flu vaccine for general population was supposed to start from 15th of November but it was further shifted since the consignment for the second phase is yet to be received and distributed in various health facilities in the country. A detailed micro plan has been developed by the Thromde Health Office in Thimphu. Multiple vaccination sites or temporary vaccination posts shall be created in line with COVID-19 zoning system for the flu vaccination program in Thimphu Thromde.

Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) received more number of people for the flu vaccine as compared to last year. The hospital started providing flu vaccine on 5th November and within 10 days, over 3,500 people (old age and people with comorbidities) were vaccinated. While last year, only about 5,000 people were vaccinated in eight months.

Medical Superintended of JDWNRH, Dr Gosar Pemba said the flu vaccine is given to those 65 years and above, pregnant women, children (6 months to 23 months), and people with comorbidities and health workers who come in contact with the patient.

Head of Department of MCH, Dr Sonam Ugen said the influenza vaccine will make the flu symptoms less severe and it is not that after getting flu vaccine, no one will get the flu. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to sickness and flu and that is why they have been prioritized.

The reasons that more people coming forward for the vaccine could be that the people are thinking that Influenza vaccine will be of help in not getting COVID and another reason could be that since flu vaccine started from last year people are aware about the flu vaccine available in the country, said Dr Gosar.

The flu vaccine is given to all the priority group once in a year because it is usually the people with comorbidities, old age and children (6 months to 23 months) who develop Pneumonia and have a higher risk of dying.

Also, COVID-19 symptoms and ordinary flu symptoms are quite similar and it will complicate or mix with other flu like symptoms, like in the present case of COVID-19 and so the flu vaccine can eliminate such confusion.

Flu vaccine was always available for the immuno-compromised patients in the past, and flu vaccination was launched on 6 November 2019 for 5 categories of risk groups, such as pregnant women, patients with medical condition, elderly population 65 years and above, children 6-23 months and health workers involved in clinical management.

According to the influenza surveillance conducted by Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC), Bhutan has two flu seasons. Winter season starting from December to March, and Monsoon season starting from July to September.

Meanwhile, Phase 1 was launched on 7th October and this phase comprises of elderly citizens over the age of 65; children between 6 to 24 months of age; Medical and health professionals; People with chronic medical conditions; pregnant women and front liners serving in the red zone.

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