As some countries have sought for mixing the COVID-19 vaccine, even Bhutan is going along with the mix-and-match mode.
We cannot say this is not because of faced with short supplies of vaccines. Switching to midstream shots would have unforeseen side effect. And there is still need to clarify the stigma or doubt on mix vaccines. Getting a different vaccine for second dose, followed by a different vaccine booster, may or may not prove effective.
Most of the authorized vaccines require two doses administered with a gap of two weeks or months but Bhutan almost kept a gap of almost four months. How it would help in developing immune system when it is kept more than required period is a question worth pondering?
A UK study has found that mix- approach Covid vaccines – using different brands for first and second doses – appears to give good protection against the pandemic virus.
And Bhutan decided to go ahead with the mix-and-match mode of vaccination for the second dose that would begin from July 20. To clear away some skepticism surrounding the idea of mixing two different types of Covid-19 may have side effects, volunteers including the Prime Minster, National Assembly Speaker and others have received their dose. After the 30 minutes observation, they tried to convince the public informing that they did not experience any side effect symptoms.
The National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) has recommended that Bhutanese who had received Covishield (AstraZeneca) vaccine for their first dose, a booster dose of an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) will produced a stronger immune response (immunogenicity) against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Other international studies also suggests that mixing vaccine will be at least protective as two doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech product would be one of the most effective COVID-19 vaccine.
However, individuals have stemmed concern for deciding to mix vaccine without proper evidences. Though there are studies on good approach of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines there are limited data on mix and match of different vaccines.
As of now Bhutan has four types of COVID-19 vaccines; Moderna, AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinopharm.
During the first dose, all Bhutanese got AstraZeneca vaccine. There won’t be much suspicion on mixing AstraZeneca and Pfizer. As the good combination vaccines will not be sufficient to all the adult netizens, which mix-match vaccines will be administered?
Even Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines as a second dose to younger people who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as Spain and Germany are despite there are reports concerns about rare but serious blood clots, rather than about efficacy.
While much has been said and revealed by the government, they still got to be studied more so that public doubt and apathy towards this vaccine method is justified.