Treading the last mile in our vaccine journey

In the coming days, until 13 April, immunization will continue to be an essential service at the RBP flu clinic in Thimphu following which the program will be continued by the community health department at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital

Health Minister appealed to all eligible countrymen to make it a mass movement to take Covid-19 vaccine shots and keep the country safe from the virus’ new waves

Lhakpa Tshering

The mass rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has raised many hopes of returning to pre-pandemic normalcy.However, it will depend on successfully overcoming the last mile in the vaccine journey of immunization coverage for the entire eligible population.

Close to the heels of a tremendous success that saw 474,303 persons jabbed insuch a short period that no country across the globe has ever delivered, the vaccination will move to those deferred and new eligible population, people with mobility issues – who can’t walk, on quarantine duty, in the quarantine and isolation, under meditation, and unregistered and unvaccinated population.

To achieve maximum coverage, Health Minister DashoDechen Wangmo urged all eligible people to come forward for vaccination and make the country safe from the virus wave. “We still have a gap of few eligible populations that are not vaccinated,” she said.

Appealing to all eligible individuals across the country to make it a mass movement to take vaccine shots, Lyonpo said His Majesty the King has shared His thoughts about taking the vaccine only after every eligible person in the country received their shots safely. “We as a Bhutanese citizen, it is oursacred duty to fulfill the aspiration of His Majesty the King,” she said,adding that it is the greatest opportunity to offer the vaccine to the King.

Lyonpo went on to say that it is not just aboutgetting vaccinated, but saving one’s family and loved ones, community, country, and “most importantly, serving to the nation’s call and living up to the aspiration of the selfless leader, His Majesty the King.”

While ensuring access to the Covid-19 vaccine is the biggest challenge even to the most developed countries, Lyonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo said vaccines were made available to every eligible citizen in the country thanks to the generosity of the government of India.

In addition, reiterating the efficacy of the Covishield vaccines, Lyonpo said it has an efficacy of 81 percent that prevent it from getting the Covid-19 infection. “You can almost say you have 100 percent assurance if you are vaccinated,” she said. “Even if you get Covid-19, the severity will be minimized completely.”

Reaching the unreached

In the coming days, until 13 April, immunization will continue to be an essential service at the RBP flu clinic in Thimphu following which the program will be continued by the community health department at Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital.

Through reaching the unreached program, Lyonpo Dasho Dechen Wangmo said the ministry is catering home-based vaccination services to the bedridden individuals at their doorsteps till 13 April.She appealed to the people to avail themselves of the vaccination service at their homes.

This program is currently underway in Thimphu Thromde with two teams spearheading the initiative since 6 April. In other dzongkhags, their respective dzongkhag health officers and health workers’ in-charges have been following up on unvaccinated people who were registered as ‘’being unable to walk to avail the vaccine.’

However, with the completion of this program, to avoid vaccine wastage, Lyonpo said the vaccination service will continue at the respective health facilities with an appointment system where vaccine recipients have to wait for the required number of eligible clients – a minimum of 10 people at a time.

While the vaccination for De-Suups on duty is ongoing, it is deferred for those who are on duty at the quarantine facilities where positive cases were reported. But it will administer the jab after the completion of their 21 days quarantine period. The others currently undergoing quarantine will be vaccinated at the respective health centers after the quarantine period is over.

Coming to those individuals who are infected with the Covid-19 virus and put under the isolation facilities, the vaccine shots will take place after they are declared recovered.

And to reach everyone who needs a vaccine, the respective health workers during the Outreach Clinics (ORC) visits would facilitate vaccination service to those willing to vaccinate before completing meditation but encouraged to take the jab after completing the meditation.

Consequences of not vaccinating

What would happen if you choose not to vaccinate?

There would be certain inconveniences of skipping vaccinations such as monitoring under the surveillance team for periodic testing and also besubject to mandatory quarantine while travelling from high to low-risk areas, virus testing for hospital admission, and certain restriction to travel abroad without a vaccine passport among others.

This, according to Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo, was to prevent community transmission and help in the early detection in case of an outbreak. “These are all part of our enhanced surveillance system ultimately protecting the public from any community transmission,” she added.

Some consequences include developing severe illness due to emerging of new variants, struggle for the country to reach a protective level – herd immunity, and putting the loved ones at the risk of the dreadful virus.

“We are a small society living in a traditional family structure where we have grandparents, young children and loved one’s living at home, and the current vaccine doesn’t protect children below 18 years,” Lyonpo said, adding the time has come to serve and act as responsible citizens to achieveherd immunity so that the county can go back to normal. 

Lyonpo also indicated that the existing mandatory seven-day quarantine for individuals travelling from the high-risk areas will be lifted for those who have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.  “But if you are not vaccinated, then the quarantine will have to apply,” she added.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo cautioned that even with the completion of the nationwide vaccination campaign the risk is still not over and urged continuing wearing facemasks, practice social distancing, wash hands and avoid mass gatherings.