MUMBAI -- While India is gripped by a runaway spread of the coronavirus, neighboring Bhutan has administered at least one vaccine dose to more than 90% of adults in just over a month.
As of Thursday, 480,330 people have received the first vaccination in the small Himalayan nation, according to the Bhutanese government, amounting to more than 60% of the overall population of about 770,000 people. Most of them received the jab within two weeks after the rollout started on March 27.
Bhutan has limited the COVID-19 spread to just over 1,000 cumulative cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. New daily infections number less than 30 patients.
This contrasts to India, where new cases have topped 300,000 for consecutive days, the worst pace of infections in the world.
Indian media have credited Bhutan's speedy vaccine program to political leaders who understand the importance of staying ahead of the infection curve.
Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, who himself is a doctor, ordered the establishment of about 1,200 vaccine centers throughout the country. For mountain villages that are hard to reach by road, the government has dispatched helicopters to transport the vaccines.
Health Minister Dechen Wangmo told citizens it is their "sacred duty" to get vaccinated, not only for the sake of their communities but also to protect the monarch, King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who has decided to put others before himself.
"His Majesty the King has shared thoughts about taking the vaccine only after every eligible person in the country received their shots safely," Dechen Wangmo said in a statement in early April.