All you need to know about Nepal’s vaccination statusWith doses gradually arriving and commitment for more vaccines, the country’s inoculation campaign is gradually coming back on track.
As the political turbulence seems to have calmed, Nepal’s vaccination campaign, which was facing a hiccup for lack of doses, too appears to be gradually coming back on track. After months of struggle, some doses have started to arrive–with promises of more shots in the coming days. As the country stares at the third coronavirus wave, doctors and public health experts have but one suggestion–continue to follow the basics, that is test, trace and treat; and vaccinate as many people as possible at the earliest. Though Nepal managed to escape the first wave without much damage, the second wave starting April slid into a devastating crisis, claiming more than 6,000 people. The cases may have declined in recent days, but there are warnings that it could be the calm before the storm. And experts have called for not letting our guard down.
Here is what you need to know about Nepal’s vaccine status.
How many people have been vaccinated?
At least 2,611,807 people have been vaccinated across the country until Tuesday. Of them, 1,103,130 have been fully vaccinated, either with Covishield or Vero Cell.
Around 1.4 million people aged 65 and above, however, are waiting for their booster dose after taking the first dose in the second week of March. They were given the first dose of Covishield. But with no AstraZeneca type vaccine in stock, they have not been able to receive their booster doses.
How many doses Nepal has received so far and from where?
Nepal launched its vaccination campaign on January 27 with the 1 million doses of Covishield received in grant assistance from India. Covishield is the AstraZeneca type vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
In the first week of March, COVAX, an international vaccine-sharing scheme backed by the United Nations, supplied 348,000 doses of Covishield. At the end of March, 800,000 doses of Vero Cell were brought in from China, which Beijing had provided under grant assistance. An additional 1 million doses of Vero Cell under Chinese grant then arrived again in June.
On July 12, a little over 1.5 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine landed in Kathmandu. The vaccine was provided by the United States through the COVAX facility.
On March 28, the Indian Army had provided 100,000 doses of Covishield to the Nepal Army. The doses were used to vaccinate Army personnel and their dependents.
How many doses has Nepal bought?
The government in February signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to buy 2 million doses of Covishield at $4 per dose. The Serum Institute supplied in February 1 million doses but stopped shipment of additional doses, citing the coronavirus crisis in India. The remaining 1 million doses have not arrived yet.
In mid-June, officials said they have signed a non-disclosure agreement with Sinopharm, a state-owned pharmaceutical company of China, to buy 4 million doses of Vero Cell. The first consignment of the total purchase, around 800,000 doses, arrived in Nepal on July 9. Flights to China are scheduled for July 15 and July 22 to bring additional doses of Vero Cell.
Are more vaccines coming?
COVAX said in June that an additional 348,000 doses of Covishield would arrive by July, but there has been no further communication in that regard. Japan on Tuesday announced that it would provide 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine. “The government of Japan donates about 1.6 million doses of Japanese-made Covid-19 AstraZeneca vaccine for Nepal as a grant through the COVAX facility, which was officially announced by Motegi Toshimitsu, minister for foreign affairs of Japan,” the Japanese Embassy in Kathmandu said in a press release on Tuesday.
According to the release, the exact shipping schedule will be confirmed “once the procurement arrangement is finalised by COVAX.”
China too has expressed its commitment to continuing vaccine cooperation to Nepal. Earlier this week, during a virtual interaction with journalists, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi said that Beijing would supply additional doses to Nepal.
How many people Nepal needs to vaccinate?
Around 72 percent of the 30 million population–or around 22 million people remain to be vaccinated. However, since around 4-5 million people are said to be living abroad, the government needs to vaccinate around 17-18 million people. For this, the country needs around 36 million doses of double-shot vaccine. Since COVAX has committed to providing around 13 million doses, enough to vaccinate 20 percent of the population, the government needs to manage 23 million doses on its own–either through grants from other countries or through purchases.
Is money an issue to buy the vaccines?
No. Officials say money is not a problem when it comes to securing doses. The over-reliance on India in the initial days made the government complacent and it failed to activate all its channels in other countries for vaccines–either on grant or on payment basis. Firms like Moderna and Johnson & Johson were approached for commercial procurement deals in the third week of April. But both communicated to the Nepali Embassy in the United States that they were unable to supply doses before 2022 due to supply chain constraints and their prior commitments to other countries which had already placed orders.
Multiple officials told the Post in May that red tape, indecision and politics were to blame for the delay in acquiring vaccines on time.
The World Bank, a major donor which has committed funds to buy the jabs, said last week that Nepal must not wait for free vaccines and instead order them by paying.
“The World Bank has provided $100 million (nearly Rs12 billion) for vaccine procurement,” said Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank’s country director for Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Another $160 million (nearly Rs19 billion) has been set aside by the Asian Development Bank for Nepal.