A mix of AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for second dose

Four different Covid-19 vaccines will be available in the country

Four different Covid-19 vaccines will be available in the country

Lhakpa Tshering

With the USA government shipping 500,000 doses of Moderna vaccines to Bhutan, the government is considering mixing and matching (heterologous) AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines schedules for the Covid-19 second dose.

This means, administering the AstraZeneca vaccine as the first dose followed by Moderna as the second dose, and boosters with other vaccines – messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) – at a later stage.

With the arrival of 500,000 doses of Moderna, there will be four different types of Covid-19 vaccines of 310,000 AstraZeneca including over 60,000 leftover doses from first shot, 50,000 doses of Sinopharm, and 5,850 doses of Pfizer vaccines in the country.

Bhutan Times learned that the USA Moderna vaccines will arrive on Monday in a chartered flight via Kolkata, India.

Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo said they are yet to know whether the vaccine shipment will come in a different consignment or in a single haul.

In the meantime, the government also completed the binding terms sheet to purchase 200,000 doses of Pfizer or BioNTech from the US.

Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering at the meet-the-press said that the government has not yet specified which age category will receive mix and match (heterologous) or same (homologous) vaccine for the second dose.

“The national immunization technical advisory group (NI-TAG) is currently working on age-wise details of who will get what kind of vaccine for the second dose,” he said, adding that the recommendations would be ready in the next few days. 

Sources said that those aged between 18-34 years would be given mixing and matching vaccines with mRNA vaccine.

Lyonchhen recently said that the government secured mRNA vaccines that would cover all the eligible population for the second jab.

A very promising data has recently been released from mix and match trials in Spain and the United Kingdom suggesting mix and match schedules may give higher antibody levels than two doses of a single vaccine.

Several countries including Germany, France, Sweden, Norway and Denmark are already using mix and match vaccine schedules as their second dose.

The nationwide vaccination campaign for the second dose is tentatively scheduled in the third week of this month. “We are in consultation with an astrologer so that we could begin on a good day,” Lyonchhen said.

Meanwhile, at least 400 Bhutanese, mostly students, who had travelled outside the country, had already received their second dose of the vaccine through respective health facilities and JDWNRH, according to the health minister.

In addition, Lyonpo also said that the children aged between 12-17 years will also receive their first shot of vaccine following administration of the second