Upasana Dahal/AFP via Getty Images
Over seven days, 90 percent of eligible adults in Bhutan received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the country’s health ministry announced Tuesday.
The mass vaccine drive started on July 20, and is “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic,” UNICEF said. In April, Bhutan received 550,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India, and in less than two weeks was able to give abut 90 percent of eligible adults their first dose.
Bhutan is a small country that lies between China and India, with a population of almost 800,000. There was a pause in the vaccination push when vaccine production was slowed down in India because of a surge in coronavirus cases, but earlier this month doses began arriving again in Bhutan, with Denmark, Croatia, and Bulgaria donating 400,000 AstraZeneca shots and the United States supplying 500,000 Moderna and 5,000 Pfizer doses.
Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s health minister, told The Associated Press the country’s “aim is to achieve herd immunity among our population in the shortest possible time to avert a major public health crisis.” Bhutan’s small population and effective messaging are making it easier for this to happen. Bhutan’s prime minister, foreign minister, and health minister are all medical professionals, AP notes, and they have been advocating the vaccine and clearing up misconceptions.
Even regular citizens are part of the effort — 22,000 people in Bhutan have volunteered to staff COVID-19 testing centers, fight misinformation in their communities, and carry the vaccine to rural destinations. There are more than 1,200 vaccination centers set up in Bhutan, and health workers are traveling through harsh conditions in order to get doses to remote mountain villages. Dr. Sonam Wangchuk, a member of Bhutan’s vaccination task force, told AP that “vaccination is the pillar of Bhutan’s health care initiative” and “in fact, people are quite eager to come and get themselves vaccinated.”