Since India is experiencing the bitter second wave of COVID-19, Bhutan is not going to pressure India to supply vaccines, said Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering in the ongoing parliament session in Thimphu last week.
The Prime Minister was responding to a question raised by Opposition Party member MP Karma Wangchuk when asked about the status of vaccination among the Bhutanese residing abroad.
“Initially, India assured support, but we have to understand that our neighbour is facing the second wave of COVID-19 badly. India is a reliable friend and will give the second dose if asked but given India’s greater need to save lives, Bhutan should not pressure them,” said Tshering.
“Bhutan will be approaching other countries for the second dose of AstraZeneca,” he added.
The Prime Minister said that Foreign Minister will personally initiate to procure vaccine from third countries. He also informed the nation in an ongoing National Assembly session that he has requested Health Minister Dechen Wangmo “not to come back home empty hand’’ who is in Geneva, Switzerland to attend World Health Assembly.
Bhutan’s Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said the Indian government had assured Bhutan to provide the half-million AstraZeneca required for the second dose to achieve full immunisation.
India had supplied around 5.5 lakh vaccine doses to Bhutan in two batches for the first jab. Bhutan recorded 80 per cent immunisation of adults.
Bhutan had already received the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX Facility on 26 May. The first tranche includes 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was shipped from New York, US.
Now, the vaccines are stored at the central storage facility in Thimphu, at a temperature of –70 degree Celsius.
Even though Bhutan carried one of the most effective vaccination programs in the region, vaccine arrival was delayed as the Royal Government of Bhutan did not sign a legal document with the manufacturer.
The Cabinet of Minister could only approve and sign the document only last month as a requirement to access the facility.