Denmark steps in to provide vaccines to Bhutan

Denmark steps in to provide vaccines to Bhutan

Earlier India was unable to supply due to shortage

After weeks of uncertainty over vaccine supplies, Denmark stepped in to provide Bhutan with 2,50,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines on Friday, about half of their requirement to complete the inoculation of their population.

“Around 2,50,000 AstraZeneca vaccines are coming to Bhutan as a donation from the Danish government to help Bhutan combat COVID-19 and secure that the citizens get the second jab in time,” said a statement from the Danish Embassy in Delhi, which also oversees relations with Bhutan.

The supplies, which are part of an entire tranche of about 5,50,000 being coordinated by the European Union through its Civil Protection Mechanism, which was reported by The Hindu earlier this week, were necessitated because India was unable to provide the second round of Covishield doses due to the coronavirus pandemic’s second wave and domestic vaccine shortages.

On Friday, the government repeated its earlier stand that it could not supply to Bhutan, along with other neighbouring countries, that have been hoping that India would resume its “Vaccine Maitri” export consignments, many of which have been paid in advance.

“Currently our priority is on domestic production for the domestic vaccine programmes,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, responding to queries from journalists.

Speaking to The Hindu, Bhutan’s Health Minister Dechen Wangmo had said Bhutan understood India’s current problems and said it would not be “morally right” to push India for more vaccines at this time, and her government had reached out to about 17 other countries, requesting that they provide any surplus unexpired vaccines on an emergency basis.

A statement from Danish Aid Agency DANIDA said the vaccines would be delivered at the “earliest possible.” Bhutanese officials said they had requested the vaccines by next week, so as to complete their second dose distribution by mid-July, which would mark 16 weeks since the first dose, the outer limit for the vaccines to be efficacious.

Practical issues

“There are still a number of practical and legal ends to be met so that donations can be carried out as efficiently and safely as possible. We are working hard on that,” Ole Jensen, Deputy Director of the Statens Serum Institut, that will provide the vaccines, was quoted as saying in the statement. The issues include arranging transport and securing a cold chain supply for the vaccines to be flown to Thimphu, as well as clearances from AstraZeneca to re-export the doses.

The European Union embassy declined to comment on where the remainder required 2,50,000-3,00,000 doses would be sourced from, but an official confirmed that several countries that were keen to help were in talks to provide them.

On Wednesday, an EU official said member-states were “actively pursuing concrete options” for the vaccines and a decision would be taken shortly. The EU civil protection mechanism has helped more than a hundred countries with vaccines so far.

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