July 25, 2021

Denmark flies to the rescue of Bhutan

This is relief in Bhutan. Extremely concerned about the shortage of anti-Covid-19 vaccines that has hit South Asia since India, a producing country, ceased its exports in mid-April to meet its own needs, the small Himalayan state learned on Thursday 1is July that Denmark was going to come to its aid. “About 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine will be sent to Bhutan in the form of a donation, in order to allow its inhabitants to receive their second injection on time”, the Danish embassy in Delhi confirmed on Friday.

This delivery, which should take place in the next few days, will be insufficient to meet all the needs. But it is part of the European Union’s commitment to partially compensate for India’s failure, by providing itself 350,000 doses. The Europeans have not yet specified where the remaining 100,000 doses will come from, but several member states are said to be in talks to follow Denmark, including France. Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering also indicated that an order for “More than 200,000 doses” had been passed to the American laboratory Pfizer, but with delivery expected at the end of the year only.

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Call for international help

Bhutanese authorities have said they absolutely need to receive the new doses “By next week”, so that they can be injected into the population “By mid-July”. Sixteen weeks will have passed since the first dose, whereas initially, AstraZeneca recommended an interval of four to twelve weeks between the two injections.

Three months ago, the small Asian kingdom congratulated itself with great noise on the success of its vaccination campaign. Between March 27 and April 6, he administered a first dose to 71% of its population (over 770,000 inhabitants), thanks to the generosity of India. As part of its so-called “vaccine diplomacy” policy, the Modi government sent on January 20, free of charge, 150,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in the subcontinent by the Serum Institute of India, largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, then, on March 21, 400,000 additional doses of the same product.

Read also the column: “Faced with Covid-19, Bhutan has taken advantage of its small size”

Subsequently, India was brought down by a second wave of Covid-19, due to the spread of the Delta variant, first discovered on its territory in October 2020, but also due to a campaign too slow vaccination. As the weeks went by, angst gripped Bhutan. The king, Jigme Khesar Wangchuck, was reduced to asking for help from eighteen different nations, in the hope of finding a solution.

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