As the deadline for the second vaccine shots for children aged 12 to 17 years draws near, the procurement of 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines by the government is expected to arrive in the country on 6 September.
This will be the biggest shipment of Pfizer doses to arrive in the country after the first tranche of 5,850 doses were delivered on 25 May through the COVAX Facility.
While the health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo did not confirm the arrival date of vaccines, she said, “We have fairly good confirmation right now on the vaccines.”
In the earlier interview, Lyonpo said, they have been pursuing with Pfizer to expedite the purchase order of 200,000 Pfizer vaccines in its quest to secure additional vaccines to continue jabbing eligible children against the coronavirus.
It was learned that the health minister’s virtual meeting with Pfizer CEO in July had a great impact in accelerating the delivery of Pfizer vaccines that the government placed a purchase order for.
Following the meeting, a senior official of Pfizer India based in Mumbai met the officials at the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in New Delhi on 4 August and discussed speeding up the process on the formalization of the purchase of Pfizer vaccines.
A foreign ministry official familiar with the vaccine follow-up earlier said that after their meeting, the Pfizer team agreed to ensure the earliest possible delivery of the vaccines to Bhutan once the operational readiness is in place for the rollout of the vaccines by the end of August.
The government is also pursuing the Moderna Company to secure 145,000 vaccines and exploring possibilities to take up the vaccine request directly.
Second dose for children
Given the national immunization technical advisory group’s (NITAG) recommendation interval of 4 to 6 weeks for the Moderna vaccine, some 36,200 children and adults who received Moderna as their first dose are due for a second dose in the third week of September.
Health officials say the second dose for children is tentatively scheduled for 9 September considering the 6-weeks upper interval.
Some 20,000 children who were not vaccinated with a single shot can also expect their first dose during the rollout of the second dose for children who had already received their first dose.
Health minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo earlier told this paper that whichever vaccine brand arrives first in the country will be rolled out immediately.
“About 79 percent of the children of that age group are school-going students. So once the vaccines arrive in the country, we would take one to two days for the deployment and we will start vaccination that would barely take two days,” said Lyonpo.
Based on NITAG’s recommendation, she said, they will be moving ahead with mixing and matching mRNA vaccines. “Those who received Moderna as their first dose can be given Pfizer in the second shot,” she added.
Diluents and syringes are also expected to arrive by September to administer Pfizer vaccines within the scheduled time frame. The national referral hospital (JDWNRH) has 53,000 numbers of syringes that are recommended for Pfizer vaccines in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, some 60,000 children received their first shot accounting for 78.6 percent of the eligible children aged between 12 to 17 years of which at least 2,500 have received both the shots.
Based on the projected population of the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) for 2021, the targeted populations for that age group in the country are 79,986 children with the highest – over 13,000 – children living in Thimphu followed by Chhukha and Samtse – about 7,000 children each.