All children from six months to less than five years of age, and with chronic medical conditions, must be registered with the Bhutan Vaccine System (BVS) or in the nearest health facilities for COVID-19 vaccines as early as possible.
An official from the Ministry of Health (MoH) said although vaccines for under-five are approved for emergency use by WHO, most countries are not vaccinating their children. However, the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG) has recommended only those under-five children with chronic medical conditions will be vaccinated.
Currently, the health ministry is collecting data on children with chronic medical conditions from six months to less than five years old in the country. However, the challenge right now is the ministry is not getting the correct data on the children with serious medical illnesses, and so far, they have collected less than 1,000 children.
Another challenge is that earlier MoH decided to vaccinate all 83,000 children under-five and paid USD 84,000 for pre-booking to the Pfizer company which would be enough for the first dose. However, now the COVID-19 situation has changed, and COVID-19 is more like the flu in the country, so the strategy has been modified.
According to the NITAG’s recommendation, the health ministry so far collected data of 1,000 children with comorbidities, where 3,000 doses of Pfizer are required, but if in case parents are not willing to vaccinate their children, then the vaccine might get wasted.
“We are requesting the Pfizer company to provide vaccines worth USD 84,000, which comes to approximately 12,000 doses. Since Bhutan, so far, has 1,000 children registered, in order to not waste the vaccines, the health ministry is communicating with the company to provide vaccines batch-wise,” said the official.
As soon as the company agrees to provide 3,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines in the first batch, the country will start preparing how and when to vaccinate. However, now the ministry is in a negotiating stage.
Meanwhile, as of 31 December 2022, the health ministry has covered 67 percent of fourth dose coverage for 18 years and above.
Thimphu will be providing the fourth dose on every Friday at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital. The other dzongkhags will also offer the fourth dose of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to all eligible population.