Bhutan fully vaccinates 90pc of eligible adults within a week

Published July 28, 2021
MONKS perform prayers after 500,000 doses of Moderna  vaccine gifted by the United States landed at Paro international airport.—AP
MONKS perform prayers after 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccine gifted by the United States landed at Paro international airport.—AP

GAUHATI: The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90pc of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said on Tuesday.

The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by Unicef as arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.

In April, Bhutan grabbed headlines when its government said it had inoculated around the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose in under two weeks after India donated 550,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine.

But the country faced a shortage for months after India, a major supplier of the AstraZeneca shot, halted exports as it scrambled to meet a rising demand at home as infections surged.

Bhutan was able to restart its drive last week after half a million doses of Moderna vaccine arrived from the United States as a donation under the UN-backed COVAX programme, an initiative devised to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth.

Some 5,000 shots of Pfizer were also facilitated through COVAX, which is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation.

It also received more than 400,000 AstraZeneca shots from Denmark, Croatia and Bulgaria in the last two weeks.

Our aim is to achieve herd immunity among our population in the shortest possible time to avert a major public health crisis, Dechen Wangmo, Bhutans health minister, said. Many Western countries with far more resources are yet to vaccinate such a high rate of eligible adults.

Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021

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