India has assured us of Covishield: Bhutan foreign minister

Bhutanese Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji has said the Indian government has given an assurance that his country would get the second dose of the Covishield vaccine

May 03, 2021
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Bhutanese Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji (File)

Bhutanese Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji has said the Indian government has given an assurance that his country would get the second dose of the Covishield vaccine.

Lyonpo said the Indian Foreign Secretary also gave the same assurance during a meeting with the Bhutanese ambassador to India.

“Even with the current unfortunate situation in India, we are hopeful they would support us because with the first dose, we are only half protected.”

He however, said the question was whether India could supply the vaccines all at once, Bhutan’s national newspaper Kuensel reported.

“We still have a month and half for the second dose to begin and in the meantime, we are exploring other avenues as well,” the foreign minister said.

With India fighting a highly contagious and lethal second wave of the pandemic and reporting a shortage of vaccine for its own citizens, there is concern whether Bhutan would get the second dose.

The COVAX Facility is the most realistic option when it comes to vaccines for Bhutan. The cabinet last week approved and signed the documents that were required to access the facility.

Until the recent bilateral assistance from India, Bhutan’s only access to the Covid-19 vaccine was through the COVAX Facility. COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April 2020 by the WHO, the European Commission and France in response to the pandemic.

As a member of the Facility, Bhutan would receive free vaccines for 20 percent of its population under the initiative. The Facility has allocated 108,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and about 5,900 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for Bhutan.

Besides receiving the free vaccines from the Facility, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said that the government had also submitted a request to COVAX to purchase vaccines through the facility.

The government has also ordered some 200,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from Pfizer Inc., the American multinational pharmaceutical corporation. Lyonpo said Pfizer for now was the only vaccine approved for children between the age groups of 12-17 years, and so the decision was taken to ensure vaccine coverage for a larger population.

Lyonpo added that the government was also considering the procurement of the AstraZeneca vaccine from Korea, Thailand, and Australia, which have now started to produce the vaccine besides India’s Serum Institute.

“The foreign ministry is keeping a close eye on this and have asked all our missions (offices in foreign countries) to start the channel of communication so that whenever possible, we can get some vaccines from these countries as well.”

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