Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to be administered to essential workers from WednesdayThe 800,000 doses, received in grant, will initially be given from 12 hospitals of the Valley and elsewhere later depending on their availability.
Amid a sharp rise in new cases of coronavirus infections, the Ministry of Health and Population has decided to administer vaccines gifted by China to essential workers from April 7.
“We have decided to administer the vaccine to people providing essential services from April 7,” Dr Jhalak Gautam, chief of the National Immunisation Programme, told the Post. “The vaccine will be administered only from hospitals of Kathmandu Valley for now.”
Essential workers include those working in postal and telephone services, public transportation services, water supply and distribution, tourism sector—hotels and restaurants—production, sales and distribution of medicines, electricity supply, storage and transportation of consumer goods as well as health workers who missed out in the first phase of the vaccination drive that began on January 27.
Apart from those working in essential sectors defined by the government, the Chinese vaccine will also be administered to businessmen and truck drivers who have to go to China frequently.
Nepali students pursuing higher degrees in China but stuck in Nepal due to the pandemic will also get the jabs, according to Gautam.
China recently introduced vaccination passports for travellers to prove that they are free from the coronavirus infection. It has been reported that China is resuming visa processing for foreigners if they have been inoculated against the coronavirus with Chinese vaccines.
China had given 800,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine, the BBIBP-CorV developed by Sinopharm, an affiliate of the state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, under grant assistance and they arrived in Kathmandu last Monday.
Gautam said that essential workers between 18 and 59 years can get the vaccine in the drive.
Earlier, the Health Ministry had decided to provide the vaccine to people between 40 and 59 years.
Unlike in the first and second phases of Nepal’s immunisation campaign against the coronavirus, the Chinese vaccine will not be administered from the district hospitals and the primary health centres.
Instead, they will be administered at 12 hospitals of the Valley—nine in Kathmandu, two in Lalitpur and one in Bhaktapur.
In the first phase of the campaign, frontline health workers and others had been given the jabs from district hospitals and in the second phase, during which those above the age of 65 had been given the jabs, the campaign had been expanded to primary health centres.
Doctors, however, say that if the immunisation service is provided from only a few hospitals, coverage of the vaccine will be narrow, as all targeted people may not be able to reach the designated hospitals.
“A lot of people in the targeted group could miss the jabs if we run only a few immunisation centres,” Dr Shyam Raj Upreti, coordinator of Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, told the Post.
But whether they will be expanded to other hospitals outside Kathmandu Valley or not will depend on how many doses remain once the campaign is completed in Kathmandu.
“We will start the campaign from April 7 and continue for several days,” Dr Tara Nath Pokhrel, who is also a member of the Covid-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee, told the Post. “We will take another decision on launching the immunisation drive from provincial hospitals on the basis of how many doses of the vaccine remain.”
According to a report published in The Lancet, inactivated BBIBP-CorV Covid-19 vaccine is safe and well tolerated.
On December 30 last year, Sinopharm announced the vaccine's efficacy at 79 percent, which was lower than the 86 percent efficacy announced by the United Arab Emirates on December 9.
According to recent reports in The Washington Post , the United Arab Emirates, which was among the first countries to adopt Sinopharm vaccines, BBIBP-CorV is not adequately generating antibody response after two doses.
According to the paper, Walid Zaher, chief researcher for G42 Healthcare, which distributes the Sinopharm vaccine in the United Arab Emirates, told Dubai Eye Radio that a study was underway to give some people their third doses.
G42 Healthcare also coordinated Sinopharm’s Phase 3 clinical trials in the UAE and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Nepal has so far been using Covishield, the vaccine developed by University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
After inoculating a little over 1.7 million people in two phases until March 15, Nepal’s vaccination drive remains suspended because of lack of supply.
Nepal launched its vaccination drive with the one million doses of Covishield that India had provided under a grant assistance.
Nepal then paid for 2 million doses, but the Serum Institute has supplied only a half of the ordered amount, with no clarity on when the remaining half will arrive. Nepal’s plan to buy additional 5 million doses from the Serum Institute is also currently in limbo.
Nepal has also received 348,000 doses of Covishield under the World Health Organisation-backed COVAX programme.
The Health Ministry said that the second dose will be given to those who got the first dose in the first phase of the immunisation campaign, from the 500,000 doses of Covishield vaccines in stock, from April 20 to 24.
Meanwhile, there are fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the country as the number of cases has continued to rise in the past few weeks. The Health Ministry said that 176 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours. The number of active cases stands at 1,672.
Nepal has so far reported 277,944 cases of coronavirus infections and a death toll of 3,032.