As there is a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines globally, many countries are facing huge challenges in procuring vaccines. Produced in its close neighborhood and having a politician with high generosity towards Nepal as prime minister, Nepal is among a very few lucky countries in the world to start vaccination campaign earlier with high efficacy world class vaccine.
Although India, a close neighbor with shared civilization, has always been the first to come to support Nepal whenever the country faced the crisis, India under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been more generous offering humanitarian support to Nepal much earlier this time.
Providing one million doses of vaccine in the first consignment, India supported Nepal to prevent the infection among the frontline workers including doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, journalists and employees.
District-based government employees, local level office bearers and employees, financial institutions' staff, journalists and front line workers are taking vaccines during the ongoing campaign. So far, 384,000 have taken the vaccine.
As the first million doses of vaccine are close to finish and Nepal is planning to launch the second phase of vaccination targeting the people above 55, Serum Institute agreed to deliver 2 million doses procured by Nepal in short notice.
“On a side note, India's first major diplomatic success in Nepal since the disastrous blockade of 2015 has been its Covid vaccine diplomacy. Please, please don't mess up those gains with another Babudom-Spookdom-BRB misadventurism! A friendly neighbourhood is a secure neighbourhood,” tweeted Dipak Gyawali.
Although he worked quietly from behind the scene along with Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Minister of Health and Population Rhidayesh Tripathy has ventured the move successfully.
At a time when vaccine shortage has alarmed people all over the world, Nepal is able to continue to roll out the vaccination campaign. Under the leadership of Minister Tripathy, Minister of Health and Population has been handling the most complicated phase of vaccine distribution smoothly with no such controversy as earlier in the first phase.
Procured by the government of Nepal, one million doses of Covishield vaccine produced by Serum Institute of India arrived in the Kathmandu February 21.
This was the first of the two batches of two million doses in total, brought via Air India's New Delhi-Kathmandu flight. The vaccines will be stored at the cold storage unit in Teku.
This lot of vaccines would be used to inoculate people above 60 years of age, which is 8.73 per cent of Nepal's population, in the vaccination drive that will begin on March 7.
The Ministry of Health and Population said that there are 2,652,258 elderly people above 60 years in the country. “The remaining doses of the vaccines will be obtained according to the agreement with the vaccine producer SII and the timetable proposed by the Department of Health Service,” said the Ministry.
Nepal has signed the agreement with Serum Institute to purchase 2 million doses of vaccine.
With this 2 million additional doses, Nepal is now in a very safe position to provide the jab to the needy population and prevent casualty and panic in the second wave likely beginning from March.
As Nepal is moving ahead with this new vaccine, Nepal is also working to secure the vaccine through COVAX. The present supply of three million vaccines will support Nepal’s drive up to middle of March or first week of April, Nepal is considering using the vaccine received through COVAX for another round.
Vaccine from COVAX
As the Ministry of Health and Population is preparing the plan for vaccine rollout in phases, the government is making its final preparation for importing the anti-coronavirus vaccine, Covishield, through COVAX facility within mid-March.
The Ministry of Health and Population is all set to bring in the vaccine through COVAX facility in a way that it would be adequate to inoculate 20 per cent of the total population.
In-charge of Child Health and Vaccination Section under the Department of Health Services, Dr Jhalak Sharma Gautam shared that the 'Covishield' vaccine would arrive by the end of March as all the processes required to that end have been completed.
The vaccine manufacturing company, COVAX, will send the vaccines to be administered to 20 per cent of the population in different times, he added. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Global Vaccine Alliance (GOVI) are providing the vaccine to the less-income countries free of cost.
COVAX is sending the 'Covishield vaccine as it is approved by the WHO for administration. The government few days back proceeded towards the procurement of two million doses of Covishield vaccine and the vaccine will come in the next few days and it will be administered to people above 55 years of age from coming March 7.
Similarly, the Government of China has announced to provide 500000 doses of anti-COVID vaccine to the government. The vaccine named ‘Vero Cell' has been already listed by the Department of Drug Administration (DDA).
With a neighbor with high generosity and well managed internal system under a competent leadership at the ministry, nothing is impossible. This is what Nepal has shown from the successful rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.