“Lighthouse of Hope”: How a small kingdom vaccinates its population in a hurry
Within a week, the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan had 90 percent of adults vaccinated. The key to vaccination success: a free vaccine and good organization.
The UN children’s aid organization Unicef speaks of a “success story” and even a “beacon of hope” for other countries when it praises Bhutan in the highest tones. The small kingdom in the Himalayas had around 90 percent of adults vaccinated against corona for the second time within a week. This corresponds to around 62 percent of the total of around 770,000 inhabitants, as the government announced.
Bhutan had received hundreds of thousands of cans in July – including 500,000 cans of Moderna from the USA and 250,000 cans of Astrazeneca from Denmark, according to data from Unicef. “This is not only an important milestone for Bhutan or South Asia, but for developing countries in general,” said a Unicef spokeswoman.
Bhutan as a guide for the region
Vaccination in the remote Himalayan region is a particular challenge. Healthcare workers sometimes had to climb high mountains to reach nomadic people.
The second vaccination campaign, which started on July 20, therefore required months of preparation: In more remote clinics, cold stores were set up to store the vaccine. This was then delivered to the mountain villages by helicopter.
In addition to the approximately 2,400 health care workers, more than 20,000 volunteers also helped by going from door to door to explain the vaccination campaign and helping to distribute the vaccines along the mountain hiking trails.
A prime example of international cooperation
Due to its remoteness, Bhutan has gotten through the pandemic lightly. Almost 2,500 infections and two deaths have been reported since the beginning. This makes the kingdom stand out from its South Asian neighbors such as Bangladesh and India, who have so far barely succeeded in increasing the vaccination rate and getting the massive outbreaks of the Delta variant under control.
Bhutan received the first corona vaccine as a gift from India. From the end of March to the beginning of April, more than 85 percent of adults were vaccinated, as the Bhutanese Ministry of Health announced at the time. With the second international donation round in July, the small kingdom is practically completely vaccinated. Bhutan is hailed as a prime example of countries working together to get surplus vaccines to where they’re needed most.
“That tells the story of global solidarity at a time when it wasn’t obvious in the last year,” said Will Parks, Unicef representative in Bhutan. “Now we are seeing that this solidarity, this multilateralism is emerging again. And that is so important at a time when the world is in crisis.”
Swell: CNN, with DPA