Covid: India falters, US and China send jabs to Bhutan
Bhutan, which was left scrambling for Covid vaccines after India reneged on its commitment to deliver adequate doses for the second shot of Covishield, on Tuesday announced that it had secured enough doses from across the world, including China, to inoculate its adult population.
This was announced by Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering as the largest consignment of 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine landed at Paro International Airport from the US, a country that Bhutan does not have formal diplomatic ties with.
China — another country Bhutan does not have formal diplomatic relations with as part of its policy to not have such ties with any of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — has sent 50,000 doses of its Sinopharm vaccine.
The US contribution has been sent through Covax — the worldwide initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Bhutan has also got doses from the European Union and Denmark.
Although India left Bhutan in the lurch amid vaccine shortages at home in the face of a savage second wave of the pandemic, the Bhutanese Premier was appreciative of New Delhi’s role in helping his country vaccinate 93 per cent of its adult population with at least one dose of Covishield.
“The second dose will boost the protection provided by the first round of vaccinations which was initiated in March with the sole support of the Government of India with 550,000 doses of AstraZeneca of which the balance 62,000 is still being used for walk-in persons,” the Prime Minister said, announcing that Bhutan had enough vaccines for now.
Bhutan, he pointed out, has informed countries who have come forward to help that it has sufficient stocks so that other nations are not deprived of vaccines. A medical doctor, Prime Minister Tshering had in the midst of the vaccine scarcity said he “had no problem” with mixing and matching Covid-19 vaccines.
Through the crisis, Bhutan was publicly understanding of India’s decision to stop the export of vaccines. “For the second dose, His Majesty had advised the government that sourcing vaccines from India once more would be inconsiderate given the shortage of vaccines and the surge in the country at the time. He also acknowledged India’s help in sourcing vaccines from elsewhere,” Tshering said.