2nd dose of AstraZeneca vaccine within 16-week interval

Those travelling abroad are provided the 2nd dose of the vaccine upon receiving exit clearance

After having missed the timing for the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccination that was scheduled after the 12 weeks interval from the first jab, the government has now assured to provide the second dose of the vaccine within the 16-week interval.

Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tandi Dorji informed in the parliament yesterday that efforts to ensure administration of the second dose are underway and the government is in consultation with the AstraZeneca vaccine producing countries.

“They have assured to provide the vaccines, however, the exact number of doses Bhutan will receive is not known,” the minister said.  

Meanwhile, the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine was scheduled on June 18 for the country.  

Earlier this year, Bhutan received 5,50,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India.

According to media reports, India is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 cases and that India is unlikely to resume vaccine exports until October to this year’s end.  

Further, Lyonpo Dr Tandi Dorji said the AstraZeneca vaccine producing companies’ have also recommended that it is fine to administer the second dose within the interval of 16 weeks from the first dose and that the government will provide the second dose within 12 weeks to 16 weeks. 

In an earlier interview with Business Bhutan, Dr Sonam Wangchuk of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group had shared about studies showing that the first dose has the protection rate of 76%.  

“After 21 days onwards of inoculating the first dose, it would protect from getting severe illness and hospitalization,” he had said. “After the second dose, the protection would grow from 76% to 83%. Moreover, people who are not protected by the first dose, the second dose would be an advantage for them to get the protection.”  

According to him, the first dose is called the ‘prime dose’ and the second dose is called the ‘booster dose’ that reminds the immune system about the infection.  

According to the Ministry of Health, the government is in consultation with 18 other countries to get the vaccine. Bhutan is expected to get 108,000 doses of the AstraZeneca from the COVAX facility by August this year as the ministry has received a letter from the COVAX facility confirming the allocation. 

Recently, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said Bhutan has 61,000 doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine and 5,800 of the Pfizer vaccine available with them. However, Bhutan requires around 526,000 doses to vaccinate all the eligible population.   

Additionally, he said the government is considering the procurement of the Covishield or AstraZeneca vaccine from Korea, Thailand, and Australia, which have now started to produce the vaccine, besides India’s Serum Institute. 

Moreover, Lyonpo said the government had ordered about 200,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine from the Pfizer Inc., an American Multinational Pharmaceutical Corporation.

If the adequate consignment of the second dose does not reach on time, he said, the government is looking to vaccinate all the eligible population across the border areas and it would require about 72,753 doses of the vaccine. 

The government is providing the second dose to Bhutanese travelling abroad for studies or medical referral cases upon receiving exit clearance from the National COVID-19 Task Force, according to the health ministry.  

Those travelling abroad have to take a copy of the letter to the Community Health Department, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital, and can have the second dose either on Thursday or Friday.

Thukten Zangpo

from Thimphu