Nepal to get Covid-19 vaccine from India within days, officials sayThe Ministry of Health and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu are expected to jointly announce the details regarding the supply of vaccines, including the number of doses, to Nepal on Wednesday.
Nepal is set to receive coronavirus vaccines from India.
Officials and diplomatic sources said that an announcement on India providing Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal under grant assistance will be made on Wednesday.
“Good news is coming regarding the vaccines on Wednesday. We are getting vaccines from India,” an official at the Health Ministry told the Post on condition of anonymity, saying talks are being finalised at the diplomatic level. “But we do not know yet the exact number of doses that we are going to receive.”
The Ministry of External Affairs of India confirmed on Tuesday evening that Nepal is on the list of countries to which it will start supplying the vaccines.
The Serum Institute of India is producing Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
“Keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the Covid-19 pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles will begin from January 20,” the ministry said in a statement.
Nepals’ drug regulatory body on Friday granted emergency use approval to Covishield.
“A joint press conference will be held by the embassy and the Health Ministry regarding India’s commitment to supply Covid-19 vaccines [to Nepal],” a senior diplomat at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu told the Post requesting anonymity.
The coronavirus vaccine could arrive in Nepal within a week or so, according to a Nepali diplomat at the Embassy of Nepal in New Delhi.
The Ministry of Health and Population has prepared a priority list of those who will be administered the coronavirus vaccines. All health workers serving either in state-run or private health facilities who are at high risk of catching the infection are the first priority.
Support staff—drivers, cleaning staff of health facilities, security personnel deployed on the front line and female community health volunteers—are also on the priority list.
It was not immediately clear the number of doses of the vaccine Nepal will get from India in the form of grant assistance, but Kathmandu has made a request for around two million doses.
“We understand about two million doses will come as a grant but we have not received details from the Indian side yet,” the Nepali diplomat in Delhi told the Post requesting anonymity. An announcement in that regard would be made in Kathmandu.
Each individual will have to be administered two doses of the vaccine.
Covishield is the preferred choice of vaccine of Nepali authorities since the existing storage and transportation infrastructure used in the country to immunise babies under 15 months can be utilised. Covishield vaccines have to be stored in 2 to 8 degrees Celsius.
More than 16,000 vaccination centres are designated across the country to immunise them against childhood diseases.
Indian news portal livemint on Tuesday reported that Covishield will be given to Nepal for free.
“The India government plans to give Serum India Institute's Covishield to its neighbouring countries. To Nepal, for free and 2 million doses as a gift to Bangladesh,” the portal reported.
India launched its drive to vaccinate its population on Saturday.
Besides Covishield, India has granted emergency use approval to Covaxin developed by India’s Bharat Biotech but phase III trials for it are yet to be completed.
Nepal has been looking for at least 12 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to inoculate 20 percent (or 6 million) of its population in the first phase to immunise people above the age of 60 in addition to frontline health workers.
A deal on India supplying Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal was expected during Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali’s visit to New Delhi last week. Apart from the boundary issue, securing a deal on Covid-19 vaccines was high on Gyawali’s agenda.
No deal could be signed regarding the vaccine supply during Gyawali’s visit, but India had given assurances that it would provide some doses of vaccines to Nepal very soon.
Laxman Aryal, a secretary at the Ministry of Health who was also part of Foreign Minister Gwayli’s delegation to Delhi, said that during talks India said it had kept Nepal among high priority countries to receive coronavirus vaccines.
“At this time, I can just say we are expecting cooperation on Covid-19 vaccines from India,” Aryal told the Post.
Meanwhile, authorities are preparing for the mass inoculation based on a list of health workers from across the country.
Officials and experts have said that the challenge to immunise 72 percent of the approximately 30 million population with a system designed to immunise children will be huge.
Health Ministry officials, however, maintain that since the vaccination campaign will be a phase-wise process, the existing infrastructure and preparations will be sufficient.
“We are making necessary preparations to roll out the vaccine including the dry run,” Dr Jhalak Sharma, chief of the Child Health Section at the Family Welfare Division under the Department of Health Services, told the Post.
Dry run is a dummy process, which helps the authorities understand how ready they are to roll out new vaccines.
Nepal has also been assured that vaccines to inncoulcate 3 percent of the population will be received from the World Health Organisation’s COVAX programme by April. The UN body will provide enough vaccines for 20 percent of the population in the form of a grant.
According to Sharma, vaccines will be administered to health workers and frontline workers, who number around 300,000, in the first phase. Officials say there will be no problems to roll out the vaccine in the first phase, as the immunisation will take place at health facilities only.
“As we have decided to inoculate all eligible citizens against the coronavirus, we welcome if we are provided the jabs free of cost,” Dr Roshan Pokherel , chief specialist at the Health Ministry, told the Post. “We are even ready to purchase the doses we need.”
The Cabinet meeting on November 9 had decided to procure coronavirus vaccines that have received emergency approval and administer them to people free of charge on the basis of priority.
It has estimated that Rs48 billion would be required to inoculate 52 percent of the population. As children under 15 years of age, who constitute 28 percent of the population, can’t be immunised as vaccines haven’t been tested on them, only 72 percent of the Nepalis will need to be vaccinated.
The Health Ministry has estimated each dose to cost $10 including transportation and management costs.
The government has called for contributions for funds to procure the vaccines but the appeal has come under criticism as experts say it is the legal and moral responsibility of the government to inoculate Nepalis and save lives.
“By when we will receive the vaccines and what number of doses will be clear during the joint press conference,” said Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, coordinator of the Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee. “We, however, are expecting early supply of the vaccines from India.”