Photo Courtesy: Times of India

Survey finds only 1% of population saying they will not take the vaccine

Second consignment of 400,000 vaccines to come by second or third week of March

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has started listing people for the COVID-19 vaccine and with help from the local governments, people in the rural parts are also registering. Similarly, people in the urban areas are also registering. So far more than 63,284 individuals have registered for the COVID-19 vaccine.

The ministry is all set up with the COVID-19 vaccine SOPs, guidelines and importantly, sensitizing on the vaccine. The country has 150,000 Covishield vaccines. The ministry plans to do mass vaccination since the efficacy of mass vaccination for all is more effective unlike in the past where the ministry planned that the vaccine will be given in four phases.  

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said to roll out the vaccines within a week, 9,553 vaccinators will be needed and currently, Bhutan has 2,400 vaccinators. While for refrigerators, and cold storage, the country has refrigerators to store around 900,000 vaccines. So far there are no issues regarding the storage or vaccine roll out program.

MoH has conducted its first survey to understand the perception of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in the community which was done through social media channels. A total sample of 7,478 people participated in the survey. Majority of them were between the ages of 18 to 30. “Leaving the demographic information aside, we really wanted to understand people’s perception of risk and their willingness to take the vaccine,” said the Health Minister.

In the survey, almost 60 percent have said that they will take the vaccine and around 30 percent said that they will probably take the vaccines and barely 1 percent of the population has said they will not take the vaccine.

The Health Minister said it is fairly good information to know and apart from these, there was also other information in the survey such as how they would like to seek information and so on. The survey comprehensively guides the health ministry in terms of planning process and it also provides some contextual information on being a new vaccine.

With regard to vaccinator posts, currently dzongkhags are planning where to vaccinate people. However, most have suggested that schools or an institution will be best to vaccinate people since after vaccinating, people will have to be observed for about 30 minutes on whether they will have any side effects or any kind of reactions.

The health workers will be trained to manage if there are any side effects. The ministry has not decided the exact date for vaccine roll out as it is important to see the number of registrations which will give more information on how many vaccines that need to be deployed in each district and how much of human resources is needed.

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said Bhutan is expecting an additional 400,000 vaccines probably by the second or third week of March. So when the additional vaccine arrives, all will get the vaccine.

The second dose will be rolled out after a two to three-months gap and Bhutan will receive a second dose of 550,000 vaccines after five to six months from the Indian Government and COVAX facility will support 108,000 doses of vaccine to Bhutan. The left over COVID-19 vaccine will be given to those who turn 18 this year and people coming from abroad. The government has decided to procure Pfizer COVID vaccines too because Pfizer can be fully used in kids ages between 12 to 15 and also to 60 to 40 elderly people. The Pfizer vaccine will probably arrive in the second half of 2021.

COVAX will be supporting around 5,000 Pfizer vaccines.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering clarified on the safety of the vaccine. He said it has been a year now in the world and there has been no case of severe complications after the vaccinations except for a few cases in the world which is purely coincidental. He said now it is clear that the vaccine has no serious complications.

There have been worries and concerns that Coronavirus is mutating. Lyonchhen explained that there is no virus that does not mutate and so one should not worry too much about it. 

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