Govt. plans to vaccinate children with Pfizer doses

Children include those between 12 and 17 years of age

The government is planning to use the limited stock of 5,850 doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine received from the COVAX facility to children between 12 and 17 years who are living in areas of outbreak such as Phuentsholing and Samtse, those travelling for treatment outside, and those travelling for studies outside.

However, this separate package vaccine roll out time has not been decided yet, according to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Dr Sonam Wangchuk from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) said the limited stock of 5,850 Pfizer doses would not be inoculated in the first dose and only 50% would receive the first dose considering that the second dose has to be given after four weeks interval from the first dose.

Moreover, the government is also waiting for evidence to emerge from the studies underway for the use of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in children below 17 years, states the PMO’s release.

The Moderna is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the US highest regularity authority, for children below 17 years, according to Dr Sonam Wangchuk.

“If FDA approves it, then we do not have to wait for the World Health Organization’s recommendation, the country’s NI-TAG going through the evidence would approve for the vaccination,” said Dr Sonam Wangchuk, adding that the Moderna second dose has to be given with four weeks interval.

According to media reports, the vaccine manufacturer, Moderna, said its COVID-19 vaccine was 100% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in children ages 12 to 17 in clinical trials has filled with the FDA for emergency use authorization on June 10.

For children younger than 12 years old, FDA expects the emergency use authorization vaccine (Moderna) for COVID-19 would come in early to mid-winter this year, as per the media reports.

There are more than 85,000 children between 12 to 17 years in the country and about 164,079 below 18 years.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said 21.7% of the total population of Bhutan are below 18 years.

She said, “Unless we roll out vaccine for them, 21.7% of the population will not be protected and we would not achieve herd immunity of 80%, so we are trying to mobilise vaccine for younger age group.”

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu