Bhutan's COVID-19 Vaccination Rate Has Beat Israel's: as of 4/11/21, 61.47% of the population had received at least one dose of vaccine, vs. 61.46% for Israel. Even more stunning is that this was achieved in just two weeks; look at the chart below, depicting Bhutan's steep, nearly vertical climb upwards from March 26, when Bhutan started vaccinating, to April 1, when over 56% of the population had received a first dose.
The figures are even more striking when you remove children, who are ineligible for the vaccine, from the denominator. As of April 8, 93% of adults had received their first dose.
So how did Bhutan, a lower middle income country with GDP per capita of ~$3300 in 2019, do so well? Certainly its small size helps: its population is just 763,092, a little over double the size of Iceland (which has administered first doses to ~17% of its population) and 8% the size of Israel's population of 9 million.
Bhutan received 550,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine (Covishield) from India in two batches in January and March. The vaccines were distributed to more than 1,200 sites across the country. Bhutan mobilized 3300 healthcare workers and 4400 citizen volunteers to help with the rollout across the kingdom.
But as important as Bhutan's small population size and successful vaccination program logistics have been in Bhutan's vaccination success, the esteem many Bhutanese hold for its monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, may play a similarly significant role. In a statement, Bhutan's Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo noted that “Just as a parent would put the happiness and welfare of their family first, His Majesty the King has shared thoughts about taking the vaccine only after every eligible person in the country has received their shots safely…all of us must come forward, so that we make way for His Majesty to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.”
To date, Bhutan has diagnosed 921 COVID-19 cases and one death from COVID-19. Health officials plan to keep current public health restrictions in place until at least 2 weeks after the population receives its second vaccine shot, in ~8-12 weeks.
In a time when there seems to be a never-ending supply of bad news, it's encouraging to see what Bhutan accomplished in just two weeks. It's also encouraging for our clients who are planning visits to Bhutan at Amankora or Six Senses Bhutan, since Bhutan will only reopen to international visitors once its own population his at or near herd immunity.
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