There are many parents that continue to have high level of concerns about their unvaccinated children as new and more transmissible Omicron sub-variants rise globally and as people become more careless.
Yangzom Sonam, who has a four-year-old daughter, said she is worried about her daughter who has not been vaccinated, in addition, her daughter goes to ECCD in Thimphu which makes her daughter more vulnerable to the virus.
She said most of the people are seen without their face masks these days, and also, not everyone is going for COVID-19 testing. “We don’t know who has the virus,” said Yangzom.
It is worrisome for her to send her unvaccinated daughter to ECCD, and on top of that most of her family members are going to the office and might bring home COVID-19.
“So, therefore, if the government can vaccinate under-five children at the soonest then many parents, like me, would be at ease,” said Yangzom.
Similarly, Lemo in Trongsa who takes her nine-months old daughter along with her to a work said she works in an automobile shop, which happens to be a crowded place all the time, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, life with her newborn was challenging since the beginning and now, although the country has 90 percent vaccine coverage, she feels it is unsafe for her daughter as she along with her daughter is exposed to many people who are without a face mask. She feels the vaccine will protect her daughter.
Another mother of a two-year-old son, Sonam Deki from Phuentsholing, said at this point in time, it is crucial to get vaccination for all. Since Phuentsholing shares the international border, it has always been a concern for her to take her son out of the house.
She believes COVID-19 vaccines will protect her two-year-old son just like how other vaccines protects from diseases.
The worry is especially high among parents of children under five who have suffered from pneumonia or other respiratory illness and also have underlying medical issues. They feel that they have dodged a bullet so far by taking safety precautions but worry if virus will break their defences and wreck havoc.
Parents are worried if there is a major surge of cases in Bhutan. Cases have been going up in Bhutan over the last few weeks.
So far, 3,420 children under five years have been infected with COVID-19, since the start of the pandemic in Bhutan, and there has been one death of an infant (one month 22 days old) infected with COVID-19 who succumbed to cardiac complications in Phuentsholing hospital on 17 March 2022.
Children under five years are the only unvaccinated group in Bhutan. As per international experts, the unvaccinated groups of children can continue to spread the virus, and then infect older and more comorbidities people who are at more risk. So, vaccinating children under five is very important, stated the international experts.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health contacted the Pfizer company to procure pediatric vaccines, and study the methods to vaccinate 6 months to four years old children. The ministry has already made the pre-financing for the vaccines and is also looking for donations for vaccines as well.
The data on the need for vaccines for children under five years is very less. Also, NITAG has not yet recommended vaccines for children under five years old, said the official in an earlier article in this paper.