Thimphu – Bhutan has completed vaccination to 90 percent of the population and became a “beacon of hope” for the region, according to Unicef.
“A total of 2,401 health workers helped to vaccinate the eligible population with the second dose from 20 to 26 July across the country, arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic. The precision with which Bhutan conducted mass vaccination campaigns within a week is an extraordinary achievement”, said Unicef.
The agency said in a statement that the success was mainly due to the efforts that went into securing the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines and extensive preparations for the roll out of the vaccines using all forms of resources available in the country, including training health workers, and making people aware about the campaign in advance.
The Himalaya kingdom has made exhaustive efforts to reach all target groups. Health workers organized vaccinations at community centres but also conducted home-visits to vaccinate the elderly and people with disabilities and trekked to higher altitudes to reach the nomadic herders. Children aged 12-17 years in the high-risk areas along the southern border towns are also receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
“Bhutan is now a beacon of hope for the region, at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and devastated families,” said Unicef.
UNICEF and partners assisted the Bhutanese government in strengthening the cold chain system to store the vaccines and provided logistical and operational support in fast-tracking the shipment of vaccines and injection devices to Bhutan.This includes arranging a chartered flight from the US to transport the vaccines and ramping up other vaccine shipments through commercial flights. UNICEF’s expertise in securing and installing eight walk-in coolers and two ultra-cold chain fridges across the country while supporting risk communication and community engagement activities were catalytic in preparing for the rapid mass vaccination campaign.
“Bhutan’s successful vaccination drive is a powerful example of how the donations of vaccines, secured bilaterally and multilaterally, can help protect and save lives. Two weeks ago, Bhutan received 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX, thanks to donations by the United States Government. Earlier this year, Bhutan also received 5,850 doses of Pfizer through COVAX. Other donations came in from China, Denmark, and India. More COVID-19 vaccines from Bulgaria and Croatia landed in Paro today.
“As we celebrate the successes in Bhutan, we must not forget that the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over – for Bhutan, for its neighbours in the region and for the world. Public health safety measures such as physical distancing, handwashing with soap and wearing of masks are still important.
Vaccines will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic, but only if everyone has access to them. According to WHO’s summary of latest available official data, 4 million health workers in South Asia are still not fully vaccinated,” said Unicef.
“With the pandemic raging in the region, the virus still spreading in many countries and producing new variants, and vaccine shortages, we are still at risk of more or prolonged school closures, more healthcare disruptions, and a greater economic fallout – all of which threaten the futures of families and children everywhere.
“As UNICEF continues to work with governments in ensuring the safety of the people and help societies build back better, to save lives and end the pandemic, the call to donate vaccines has never been more urgent.”- Kuensel, Asia News Network