United States to provide 100,620 doses of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to NepalOfficials say the shots will be administered from 22 hospitals across the country to people with compromised immunity.
Nepal will receive 100,620 doses of Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, donated by the United States through COVAX, the international vaccine sharing scheme backed by the United Nations.
“The United States is donating 100,620 Pfizer vaccines to the people of Nepal, the arrival is expected tomorrow!,” the US Embassy said on Twitter on Sunday.
The United States had earlier in July supplied 1,534,850 doses of Janssen vaccine to Nepal on July 12.
“We will receive the diluent [diluting agent] of the vaccine today and the vaccine will arrive tomorrow [Monday],” Upendra Dhungana, chief of the Logistic Management Section under the Department of Health Services, told the Post. “The vaccine will come in dry form and has to be mixed with diluent before use.”
The ministry has decided to provide the jabs from 22 hospitals throughout the country to people with compromised immunity.
“People suffering from renal failure, cancer and heart patients and those having diabetes, who have not received the vaccine will be provided Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 shot,” said Sagar Dahal, chief of National Immunisation Programme. “Due to limited doses of the vaccine offered to us by COVAX, we have decided to vaccinate immunocompromised people.”
The Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine will be the fourth vaccine to be used in Nepal.
Nepal has so far used AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India, Japan and Europe; Vero Cell vaccine developed by Sinopharm of China; and the single-shot Janssen made by Johnson & Johnson in the United States.
Dahal, chief of the National Immunisation Programme, said that all preparations for rolling out the vaccine have been completed.
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.
UNICEF has provided four ultra cold freezers to store the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine. The four freezers can store over 100,000 doses, according to Upendra Dhungana, chief of the Logistic Management Section under the Department of Health Services.
The Health Ministry is also preparing to ask the Cabinet for permission to purchase 6 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine.
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.
The government has already purchased 10 million doses of the Vero Cell vaccine from China. A deal has been reached with COVAX to purchase 9.9 million doses (5.9 million doses of Vero Cell and 4 million doses of Moderna vaccine) through a cost-sharing mechanism.
So far, Nepal has received 18,857,590 doses of Vero Cell, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.