Health Ministry is seeking Cabinet nod to buy 6 million doses of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccineThe doses will be bought through non-disclosure agreement. COVAX is supplying 100,620 doses of Pfizer vaccine today.
The Ministry of Health and Population is preparing to ask the Cabinet for a permission to purchase 6 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
Officials said that a Cabinet permission is needed as they plan to purchase the vaccine through a non-disclosure agreement with the vaccine manufacturing company.
“As we cannot bring an ordinance immediately to make the purchase through a non-disclosure agreement, a Cabinet permission is needed,” Dr Roshan Pokhrel, secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population told the Post. “We will send a proposal to the Cabinet on Sunday for approval.”
Officials at the Health Ministry said all necessary preparations have been completed to sign a deal for the procurement.
Secretary Pokhrel said the procurement will be made under a non-disclosure agreement, as per the request of the vaccine manufacturer.
Nepal had earlier purchased 10 million doses of Vero Cell vaccine with Chinese vaccine manufacturing company Sinopharm through a non-disclosure agreement.
Officials said they will not have any problem signing another non-disclosure agreement, as Nepal needs vaccines to save lives. However, Nepal’s law does not allow signing such an agreement.
“We hope the vaccine manufacturing company will start supplying the vaccine from December,” said Pokhrel.
Nepal has decided to take a loan from the World Bank to purchase the vaccine produced by an American manufacturer. An official at the Health Ministry said the government will duly follow the conditions set by the World Bank for taking loan to purchase Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
The country has signed a concessional loan agreement with multilateral funding agencies like the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to support Nepal’s resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nepal and the World bank signed a $150 million (Rs17.78 billion) concessional loan agreement in June.
In August, the Asian Development Bank and the Nepal government signed a $165 million (nearly Rs20 billion) loan agreement to purchase safe and effective vaccines against Covid-19.
Nepal became the second country globally when it completed agreements with GAVI to procure 4 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in August, financed by the World Bank, through the COVAX cost-share option.
Delivery of the vaccine is expected to start from March 2022 and will contribute to Nepal’s goal to vaccinate at least 78 percent of the population.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said that the COVAX facility will deliver 100,620 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Sunday.
“We will get 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine tomorrow (Sunday) from the COVAX facility,” secretary Pokhrel told the Post.
It is part of the 13 million doses committed by the COVAX facility and will be sufficient to inoculate 20 percent of the total population.
The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine will be the fourth type of Covid-19 vaccine to be used in Nepal.
Nepal so far has used AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to inoculate its population.
The ministry has decided to provide the jabs from 22 hospitals throughout the country to the people with compromised immunity.
“People suffering from renal failure, cancer patients, heart patients and those having diabetes, who have not received the vaccine will be provided Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 shot,” said Dahal. “Due to limited doses of the vaccine offered to us by COVAX, we have decided to vaccinate the immunocompromised people.”
Pfizer-BioNtech will be the first mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine to be used in Nepal. The vaccine developed jointly by the US-based Pfizer and the German firm Biontech uses a copy of a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA) to produce an immune response.
It is said that the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infection with the coronavirus.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was also highly effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 infection in adolescents between 12-15 years old, and the immune response in these adolescents was at least as strong as the immune response in 16-25-year-olds in clinical trials.
“Evidence shows mRNA Covid-19 vaccines offer similar protection in real-world conditions as they have in clinical trial settings—reducing the risk of Covid-19, including severe illness by 90 percent or more, among people who are fully vaccinated,” the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website.
The vaccine needs to be stored in minus 70 degrees Celsius, which is not supported by Nepal’s existing vaccine storage facilities.
So far, the COVAX facility has supplied 3,497,490 doses of vaccines (1,534,850 doses of single-shot Janssen, 1,614,740 doses of AstraZeneca, and 348,000 doses of Covishield from AstraZeneca).
Nepal needs to vaccinate around 78 percent of its 30 million population—or around 25 million people, as per the government’s new plan that includes those aged between 12 and 18 years. The government earlier had planned to vaccinate only those aged 15 years and above.
Since around 4-5 million people are said to be living abroad, the government needs to vaccinate around 19-20 million people. For this, the country needs a little over 40 million doses of double-shot vaccines.
Altogether, the country has received 18,857,590 doses of Vero Cell, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. So far, 6,598,530 people (21.7 percent of the total population) have been fully immunised.