Get Vaccinated to Protect the King

Would you get the COVID vaccination to protect your king or president?  Apparently, if you are Bhutanese, the answer is “yes.”  

High in the Himalayan mountains, 23,000 feet above sea level, the tiny nation of Bhutan has become a leader in COVID-19 vaccinations. How? The vaccination program included announcing that the King would be vaccinated only after everyone else in the nation had done so. Surprisingly, perhaps, this approach is working: within a two-week window, 93% of eligible adults were vaccinated!

Here is a portion of an NPR article:

In a statement, Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo described the campaign as a “sense of purpose that each of us is embracing to protect our country and the people we love.” She urged individuals to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities — as well as King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

“His Majesty the King has shared thoughts about taking the vaccine only after every eligible person in the country received their shots safely,” she said. “All of us must come forward, so that we make way for His Majesty to receive the vaccine as soon as possible.”

To read the full article go to: The Country That Vaccinated 93% Of Adults In Under 2 Weeks

Extra Challenges

As an isolated mountain nation, Bhutan has always had many challenges to overcome and needed a unique strategy to vaccinate its people. The country is landlocked: there are no roads, railroads or water-ways that connect the country to its neighbors. It is accessible only by air or foot, and most would not survive such a hike! Many of its citizens live deep in the mountains without modern conveniences. Transporting medical teams and distributing the vaccine to everyone was not going to be easy: it would take a well thought-out strategy (and a fleet of helicopters) to accomplish this.

With all of these challenges, the Bhutanese developed a unique strategy with input from their own medical, civil, cultural and religious leaders. It was an appeal to the people’s strong collective well-being as well as that of “His Majesty the King” that led to remarkable success.  

This strategy was developed by the Bhutanese for Bhutan. Would the CDC or the WHO ever come up with an approach like this? Probably not. Would this approach, so successful in Bhutan, work in other countries? Probably not among people who value individualism over collectivism and don’t have loyalty to a monarchy. The Bhutanese approach fit the Bhutanese people culturally and logistically. Therefore, it worked.

Culture Matters

What do we learn from this? Culture matters. Solutions and programs have to fit the culture of the people if they are to be embraced and effectively carried out. Whether it’s education, leadership, business, or healthcare, what works in one context is not likely to work in another where cultural norms and values are different.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.