Centres run out of jabs once again as recipients are those other than from target groupsHealth workers say they are threatened and pressured to administer single-shot J&J jabs to those close to political leaders and other influential people.
When 52-year-old Jaya Bahadur Tamang went to an urban health clinic in Kageshwari-Manohara Municipality on Tuesday to be inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine, he was told the clinic had run out of vaccines and the immunisation programme had been suspended.
“I came here to get the vaccine during my lunch break but health workers told me that all vaccines were administered on Monday,” Tamang, a labourer who hails from Barhabise, Sindhupalchok, told the Post.
Gopal Kuikel and his wife Manju, both 50 and residents of Kageshwari-Manohara Municipality, too went to a nearby health facility to be vaccinated on Tuesday.
But they too were told that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine supplied by the Health Office, Kathmandu had already been administered.
Health workers advised them to wait for a few days for the Vero Cell vaccine to arrive and they would get their jabs.
The Ministry of Health and Population began administering the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to those between 50 and 54 years, migrant workers, and disabled among others in Kathmandu Valley on Monday and the vaccination campaign was scheduled to continue till Wednesday.
The ministry had earlier decided to roll out the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from last Thursday but authorities later delayed the rollout so that newly-appointed Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba could inaugurate the latest drive, an official at the Health Ministry said on condition of anonymity.
However, those in the target groups have not been able to get jabs because health workers have been under pressure from political leaders and other influential people to provide jabs to those close to them.
“What can we do, when health workers are pressured and threatened to inoculate people other than those in priority groups?” Laxmi Koirala, health coordinator of the Kageshwari-Manohara Municipality told the Post. “I am also abused and threatened by various groups to provide vaccines, but how can I arrange when we received only enough doses for the priority population in our municipality?”
The Health Office, Kathmandu had supplied 4,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the municipality.
If the jabs were given to only those in the target groups they would have been sufficient, according to the office.
“I am getting information from many places that vaccines were given to those outside the target groups and there have been vaccine shortages,” Badri Bahadur Khadka, chief of the Health Office, Kathmandu told the Post. “Health workers are under intense pressure from various groups to provide the vaccine.”
The United States gave Nepal 1,534,850 doses of the single-shot Covid-19 vaccine on July 12 through the COVAX facility.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was also given to residents of Kavrepalanchok and most of the districts of the Gandaki Province from Monday. Other districts are expected to start immunisation as per the availability of the jabs, according to Dr Jhalak Gautam, chief of National Immunisation Programme.
Dr Mingmar Gyelgen Sherpa, former director general at the Department of Health Services, told the Post that four of his relatives aged between 50 and 54 years in Bauddha, of Kathmandu Metropolitan City did not get the vaccine when they reached the immunisation centre.
In other municipalities of Kathmandu Valley too the story is similar.
Shyam Kaji Bhandel, 74, and his wife Dolmaya, 73, from Changunarayan Municipality of Bhaktapur were told that vaccines were finished when they reached an immunisation centre near their home on Tuesday.
They were told to go to another centre in the same municipality by others who had got their shots there but when the couple got there, the centre also had run out of the Johnson & Johnson shots.
Gautam of the National Immunisation Programme, however, said that he is unaware that people from other groups are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“I am unaware of any such report,” Gautam told the Post. “We have asked the health agencies concerned to follow the priority groups at every meeting.”
The mismanagement in the administration of vaccines has been a frequent occurrence.
Immunisation centres across the country ran out of jabs last week too when the government began vaccinating those between the ages of 55 to 60 with the China-made Vero Cell vaccine. The government began the drive with the 800,000 doses of the vaccine that Nepal bought under a non-disclosure agreement with the Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm last Tuesday and said it would go on for five days. But most places had to suspend the programme after three days as the immunisation centres ran out of jabs. About 2.4 million doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive later this week.
“Providing jabs to all eligible people is not wrong but if the elderly people in the priority group are deprived of vaccines, it is a matter of concern,” said Sherpa. “We cannot prevent deaths, severity of illness and hospital admissions, if we ignore the priority groups. Authorities should enforce the rules, as it is scientific and necessary.”