Bhutan fully vaccinates 90% of eligible adults within a week



GAUHATI, India (AP) — The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has fully vaccinated 90% of its eligible adult population within just seven days, its health ministry said Tuesday.

The tiny country, wedged between India and China and home to nearly 800,000 people, began giving out second doses on July 20 in a mass drive that has been hailed by UNICEF as “arguably the fastest vaccination campaign to be executed during a pandemic.”

In April, Bhutan grabbed headlines when its government said it had inoculated around the same percentage of eligible adults with the first dose in under two weeks after India donated 550,000 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine.

But the country faced a shortage for months after India, a major supplier of the AstraZeneca shot, halted exports as it scrambled to meet a rising demand at home as infections surged.

Bhutan was able to restart its drive last week after half a million doses of Moderna vaccine arrived from the United States as a donation under the U.N.-backed COVAX program, an initiative devised to give countries access to coronavirus vaccines regardless of their wealth.

Some 5,000 shots of Pfizer were also facilitated through COVAX, which is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation.

It also received more than 400,000 AstraZeneca shots from Denmark, Croatia and Bulgaria in the last two weeks.

“Our aim is to achieve herd immunity among our population in the shortest possible time to avert a major public health crisis,” Dechen Wangmo, Bhutan’s health minister, told The Associated Press.