Govt. orders vaccine for children below 12 years

The rollout program of the booster dose for the general population scheduled for 24 January has been deferred until the restrictions are relaxed

LHAKPA TSHERING | Thimphu

To roll out vaccine programs for children against coronavirus, the government has placed a purchase order for Pfizer pediatric vaccine for the children aged between 5- to 12-year-old and aged between 2- to 5-year-old.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) is learnt to have placed a purchase order for 264,000 doses of Pfizer pediatric vaccine for these groups of children with a worrying rise in Omicron cases in the country prompting the government to start the rollout early.

Prime Minister Dasho Dr. Lotay Tshering said the government is trying its best to bring the vaccines for children as early as possible. “But we cannot say the exact arrival date of the vaccines, but we will get it as soon as possible,” he added.

“We have completed the procurement process and signed all necessary documents including sorting out legal documents and financial norms to secure the vaccines for children,” he said, adding that the government also approved the payments.

As the nation is threatened with another outbreak, Lyonchhen said, the biggest risk is children younger than 11-year-old. “This is because they are unvaccinated and have no immunity protection against the coronavirus,” he said.

In addition, the Prime Minister also informed that the government is also in the process of working to secure vaccines for the fourth dose and second booster. “We have even talked and asked the ministries of health and foreign affairs to explore the source of vaccines for our next booster dose. I asked them to start the dialogue,” Lyonchhen added.

“We need to consider this as some countries are rolling out although it is not mandatory. But we don’t know whether the requirement is 6-months after the first booster or 1-year after the first booster. But there is a booster requirement,” he said.

Lyonchhen added it is also important to keep in mind the factors such as the behavior of the virus. “If we place the order now, we might get the vaccines sooner. But the risk is vaccines we buy may not be effective if the booster requirement is a year later and the viral mutation takes different turns,” Lyonchhen said.

Meanwhile, the booster dose for the general population that is scheduled to roll out from 24 January has been deferred until relaxation of the current Covid-19 restrictions.

A member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG), Dr. Sonam Wangchuk said that the booster shot will roll out as soon as the lockdown is lifted. “If the lockdown didn’t happen, we would have rolled out by now,” he said.

However, he said that the ministry will roll out the booster dose for those dzongkhags in the green zone as soon as possible. “Vaccines were all deployed to the districts from the center store,” he said. “We have about 370,000 booster doses that are enough for the rest of the population.”