Bhutan vaccinates 60% of population against COVID in record time

Tiny Himalayan kingdom wedged between India and China says 470,000 out of 770,000 people administered first shot of vaccine donated by India.

A health worker inoculates a Buddhist monk sitting in front of a portrait of Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, at Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary school in Thimphu [File: Upasana Dahal/AFP]

Bhutan on Wednesday said it had given about 60 percent of its entire population a first jab against COVID-19 since the Himalayan kingdom started an ambitious vaccination drive nine days ago.

The tiny nation wedged between India and China told AFP news agency that 470,000 people out of 770,000 in total had been administered the first shot of a two-dose regime of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine donated by India.

Its rapid rollout puts Bhutan far ahead of other leading nations in reaching the 60 percent mark, including Seychelles, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, according to an AFP analysis.

When Bhutan’s campaign launched on March 27, it set the speedy target of vaccinating 533,000 adults – having excluded pregnant women, new mothers, people with certain health conditions and seriously ill patients – in just one week.

However, the nation, famous for measuring gross national happiness, extended its deadline by several weeks.

A health ministry spokeswoman told AFP that healthcare officers were now focusing on vaccinating those above 70, as well as disabled residents.

The country has recorded 896 COVID-19 infections and one death so far.

Israel has set the world’s leading pace per capita for vaccinations in a two-dose regime, having already given both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to more than half of its population.

Source: AFP