Taking precautions in the wake of spiralling COVID-19 situation world over and the looming threat in the country, the 42nd Meet the Press was taken out of "press room" and to online.

Govt hopeful to get vaccines for second dose: Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the GoI has assured to provide the vaccines and Bhutan still has one and half month of time for the second dose.

He said although India is going through difficult times, the government hopes that the Government of India (GoI) will provide vaccines for the second dose.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said if second dose is not given to the people then the first dose does not qualify as being vaccinated.

The Foreign minister said Bhutan is supposed to receive 108,000 vaccines from the COVAX facility including 5,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines. Bhutan still has the remaining of 50,000 vaccines from the first batch of Covishield vaccines received from GoI.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said the 5,000 Pfizer doses will probably come early and in collaboration with UNICEF and WHO, all the required documents have already been sent.

The foreign minister said the government in addition to the grant 108,000 doses it is also looking at purchasing vaccines through the COVAX facility. He said with the increased global demand COVAX itself is not able to meet the initial vaccines to cover the 20 percent of the population, so it may be difficult but nevertheless, Bhutan has processed its paper for both, grant and purchase of the vaccine.

The government has order 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine for mainly the young children aged between 12 to 17-year-old which are not covered with the AstraZeneca vaccine. This is because the Pfizer vaccine is now approved for 12 years to 17 years old, which would ensure that the larger population of Bhutan is vaccinated and contribute towards the eventual achievement of herd immunity, which requires around 70 percent of the population to be vaccinated. Since Bhutan has a large number of young population, Pfizer is needed to cover them also.

Currently all other vaccines are not approved for children except for Pfizer vaccine. Lyonpo said that hopefully, now Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and even AstraZeneca are also doing their tests on children and hopefully by the half of second year, the results will be out of those studies and that may also enable the government to look at other vaccines.

Lyonpo said the same AstraZeneca vaccine is being produced in Korea, Thailand and in Australia. He said the Ministry of Foreign affairs has been keeping a close eye on this and is starting a channel of communication so that whenever it is produced and there are adequate numbers Bhutan can ship from there as well.

The health minister said current shortage of vaccine is because the country does not have access and the commitment that Bhutan will get 108,000 plus COVAX vaccines is also not yet fixed and they have not received a definite date of shipment.

The Prime Minister said money is never a problem to procure the vaccines as His Majesty himself had assured funds for it from his own resources. Lyonchhen said current situation is that the production capacity is not able to meet the demand. He said Pfizer has said they will be able to give the 200,000 doses in the first half of next year. Some of the countries like Israel which already paid during the trial phase got priority.

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