100,000 Moderna doses reach Bhutan

The second dose will be rolled out during the last week of October

The first tranche of the government procured 100,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine from the United States Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Company arrived at the Paro International Airport yesterday.

The government purchased a total of 250,000 doses of Moderna vaccine costing US$ 5.55mn. The first consignment of 100,000 doses of the vaccine arrived on Friday and the remaining 150,000 doses will be delivered during the first quarter of the year 2022.

The arrival of additional vaccines will allow the government to continue inoculating the second doses for children aged between 12 to 17 in the remaining 15 districts and also adults (who received the Moderna as their first dose and not received the second dose).

Meanwhile, children between 12 to 17 years of age got the first dose in July end this year.

According to the health ministry, the second dose will be rolled out during the last week of October.

 The member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG), Dr Sonam Wangchuk said the distribution will be started from tomorrow (October 23) and may take two to three days to distribute and reach the vaccine to the Dzongkhags.

 “Our target is to complete vaccination by this month end,” Dr Sonam Wangchuk said, adding that each dose costs around US$ 22.

 Meanwhile, there are around more than 45,000 children who are from 12 to 17 years of age receiving their second dose. Similarly, there are around 5,000 to 6,000 adults who received the Moderna as first dose and will be getting their second dose.

 Dr Sonam Wangchuk said that the Pfizer vaccines will be saved for children who are 5 to 11 years of age, if the international and national regulatory agencies approve the vaccines for them.

 “If it is not approved for them also it will be used as a booster dose for people with medical conditions and will be given to people in the country who are at risk and on a priority basis,” he added.

 There are around 150,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine, which are in stock in the country and they will expire by December this year.

 Meanwhile, the government has also announced that they will stop inoculating the general public who have not received the vaccine from November. The vaccine will be given to only cohort people –for 5 to 11 years of children.

 When asked about achieving herd immunity of 80% after vaccinating all the children between 12 to 17 years of age, Dr Sonam Wangchuk said it is difficult to say and difficult to apply since the denominator keeps on changing and the COVID-19 keeps on changing with new variants.

 “Though our target is to achieve 80% of herd immunity, we don’t know what threshold is required to achieve herd immunity,” Dr Sonam Wangchuk said.

 Currently, it has been 12 weeks since the children received their first dose of the vaccine.

  The NI-TAG has also recommended that based on the evidence on the time interval between the first and second dose, the interval has been extended from six to eight weeks to eight to 12 weeks.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu