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Lyonchhen says vaccines are safe and will allow relaxation of restrictions, quarantine and reopening of tourism

He said all people should come forward so that around 80 percent of the total population is vaccinated to have herd immunity

Talking to The Bhutanese over the phone while in quarantine, the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering urged fellow Bhutanese to come forward for the vaccination and he said he does not want anyone to miss out.

He said people should not be worried about side effects as this is like any other vaccine and in fact has far less side effects than even the Tetanus Toxoid (TT) vaccine that people rush to take even after a minor scratch.

He said TT is the most abused vaccine and is one of the most painful injections but people still rush for it.

Lyonchhen said that as he predicted the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine has been lifted by the same countries that imposed them. He said that those temporary pauses were more political suspensions as the medical fraternity in those countries did not support it.

He said the reason of blood clotting in 40 cases out of around 24 mn vaccinations does not make sense as Caucasians even in normal cases suffer from around 1,000 to 1,500 blood clots out of every million people. He said that this risk doubles for them after the age of 70 and 75.

Lyonchhen said that normal clotting risks are lower in Asians and he himself has done around 10 to 15 surgeries for clotting which had nothing to do with the vaccine.

Lyonchhen said some people are hesitant since the vaccine was developed in a year but he said that people need to remember that this vaccine has been studied like no other vaccine. He also said medicine and technology has evolved and it is no longer necessary to study a vaccine over years.

The PM said he is requesting people to come because the aim should be to get 80 percent to 75 percent of the total population vaccinated which will allow for herd immunity.

He said with this herd immunity achieved then COVID-19 is not a public health concern but an individual health problem as only a few people will get it.

Lyonchhen said that if many people do not turn up for vaccinations and if there is a large susceptible population then COVID-19 outbreaks will happen, there will be lockdowns and an impact on gatherings and economic activities.

On the other hand, the PM said if there is enough people vaccinated then Bhutan can open up for tourism sooner and make major changes in the 7-day and 21-day quarantines.

Lyonchhen said that with the vaccination and other precautions, he hoped the quarantine and other restrictions would come to an end soon.

On the issue of the international border Lyonchhen said that it will not just depend on vaccinations in Bhutan, but also on the status of the cases and vaccination on the other side.

He said that Bhutan still has around 15 to 20 percent of the population who will not be vaccinated and so it is important to ensure that people who come in are tested and have been vaccinated.

On the issue of opening up tourism Lyonchhen said the government is thinking of asking for vaccine certificates, having COVID-19 negative test results and also having tests for bio-chemical markers to test their immunity status. He said this also part of a global conversation and something that countries like Singapore are discussing.

For those opting not to get vaccinated Lyonchhen said that an online database would have a record of all people who have been vaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated.

He said this information would be shared with check posts and so by punching in the CID card number the check post would know if the person is vaccinated or not.

He said that unvaccinated people can potentially carry the virus even if they test negative in the early part of the window, and so they would have to undertake the 7-day quarantine while travelling from high-risk areas.

The PM said that the online database would also allow for vaccine certificates to be published for people wanting to travel abroad.

Lyonchhen said that it is important to remember that COVID-19 has already killed around 2.7 million people worldwide and now there is the rise of more aggressive and infective variants.

In the case of the vaccination of those between 15 and 17 he said they would be given the Pfizer vaccine which is expected to come in the later half of the year. Bhutan has ordered around 200,000 doses.

Lyonchhen said that the vaccination teams have also been instructed to allow pregnant women to be vaccinated if they come as the only impact is that even the unborn baby will become protected through the antibodies. He said that in UK even pregnant women are taking the vaccine.

The PM said that vaccination for those below 12 will be given once the vaccine companies share data on it.

Lyonchhen became the second person in Bhutan to receive the vaccine after the 30-year-old woman. The PM said that his whole family including his doctor wife and his two 80-year old parents got the vaccine.

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