Bhutan receives 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX
Additional doses expected from EU Countries
July 13, 2021, Thimphu: The much-anticipated hope for a long-term protection from COVID-19 comes to view as more vaccines begin to arrive Bhutan. Bhutan is receiving vaccines from the following sources:
1. USA through COVAX facility – 500,000 doses of Moderna
2. Denmark – 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca
3. Croatia, Bulgaria and a few other countries- Over 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca
4. COVAX facility - 5,850 doses of Pfizer
5. People’s Republic of China - 50,000 doses of Sinopharm
The Royal Government of Bhutan has also ordered the purchase of 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, which will arrive towards the end of this year.
A team led by Health Minister Dechen Wangmo received the Moderna vaccines, which winged its way in a special chartered flight organised by UNICEF, to Paro International Airport late yesterday. Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji and team will receive the first consignment of AstraZeneca from Denmark this afternoon.
“Vaccines are certainly a most scarce commodity at this time, so we are grateful to have so much support from the international community,” Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said. “We are fortunate that Bhutan evokes tremendous goodwill and affection world over, we are blessed with genuine friends who have been unwavering in their help and support for our country.”
With more countries coming forward with similar commitments, Bhutan has informed them of the vaccine sufficiency for now. This is to ensure that other countries are not deprived of the vaccines that are very critical at this stage. However, the request for the need of future booster doses have been conveyed.
Having secured enough vaccines to administer the second dose for eligible population of above 18 years, provisions to cover those who are 17 years and below are also being made in consonance with the availability of data and evidences.
This second dose will boost the protection provided by the first round of vaccination which was initiated in March with the sole support of government of India, with 550,000 doses of AstraZeneca of which the balance 62,000 is still being used for walk-in persons.
For the second dose, His Majesty had advised the government that sourcing vaccines from India once more would be inconsiderate given the shortage of vaccines and surge of cases in the country at the time.
However, the government of India continued to support and endorse Bhutan wherever required. “It is a heartfelt knowledge that should we fail in securing vaccines from other countries, the government of India was ready to step in despite all the challenges,” the prime minister said.
In consultation with the Central Monastic Body, the government has decided to roll out the second nationwide campaign on the auspicious date of July 20. While the roll out plan will be similar to the first one, the government awaits evidences on Moderna vaccine to cover children below 17 years.
“As we look forward to the next step in overcoming this pandemic, the government, on behalf of the people of Bhutan, would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude for His Majesty’s leadership that has guided and inspired us throughout,” the prime minister said.
“On behalf of His Majesty The King and the people of Bhutan, I thank all the countries and agencies for their generous support,” he added.
The government expresses special thanks to all the individuals, multilateral and bilateral partners, including the WHO, UNICEF, GAVI-COVAX alliance, the United States of America, European Union, Government of India, and People’s Republic of China for demonstrating unconditional support and playing an important part in the lives of all Bhutanese.
UNICEF Bhutan Representative Dr Will Parks said the vaccines will provide the much needed and awaited protection against COVID-19 for Bhutan’s people.
“Amid a region in crisis, collectively and determinedly we must all protect Bhutan’s precious success against COVID-19. The vaccines are a hope for normalcy to return and a critical step towards controlling the pandemic that has upended the lives of children and young people across the world,” Dr Will Parks said. “UNICEF is humbled to support the Royal Government of Bhutan’s COVID-19 response and recovery efforts under the exemplary leadership of His Majesty The King, and remains committed to reimagine a better, safer and healthier future for children and their families.”
Besides supporting the Royal Government of Bhutan in fast tracking the shipment of the vaccines and providing operational support, UNICEF is also strengthening the cold chain system to store the vaccines. To date, seven of the nine walk-in coolers and freezers, procured through ADB support have been installed across the country.
“This delivery of U.S.-donated doses is a further manifestation of COVAX’s support to the leadership of the Royal Government of Bhutan in protecting the people of Bhutan,” said Charlie Whetham, Regional Head, Anglophone Africa and Asia Pacific at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Gavi is proud to be working to save lives as co-lead of COVAX.”
The WHO Representative to Bhutan Dr. Rui Paulo De Jesus said that Bhutan’s response to COVID-19 and the nationwide vaccination campaign for the first dose has been exemplary.
“The credit for the success largely goes to the exemplary leadership from the highest level to the strong sense of solidarity exhibited by the various sectors of the government and the people,” Dr. Rui Paulo De Jesus said. “WHO would like to acknowledge the proactive role taken by the government to secure the vaccine doses and the generosity of the donors for providing the much-needed vaccines for the second dose.”
Besides providing technical guidance related to vaccination to the Ministry of Health, WHO will be providing funding support of Nu 24M for the roll out of the second campaign.
Ambassador of Denmark to Bhutan Freddy Svane said, “Denmark stands behind people of Bhutan amidst the fiercest battle against COVID-19. The Danish donation of vaccines represents an important step in the global vaccination drive.”
COVAX, the vaccine equity scheme, led by the WHO, Gavi and CEPI, with UNICEF as an implementing partner, ensures that safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines are available to all countries around the world regardless of income level, to help end the pandemic as quickly as possible.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.