Those who received second Covid jab three months ago to get booster shotHealth Ministry to request COVAX to halt further shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech doses citing storage problem.
Everyone who received the second dose of Covid vaccine three months ago will get the booster shot soon, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.
Officials said they hope booster shots uptake will increase once the ministry gives a go-ahead to the proposal to administer booster shots to all those eligible.
“We are waiting for the ministry’s consent to start administering booster shots to everyone who received their second Covid doses three months ago,” Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the Family Welfare Division, under the Department of Health Services, said. “We expected permission from the ministry yesterday but it did not happen. We are told that the decision regarding booster shots will be taken soon.”
Currently, the government has been providing booster shots to everyone above 18 years old who had received a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine six months ago.
Officials said that the new proposal is in line with the recommendation of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, which had a few days ago decided to advise the Health Ministry to provide booster shots to all those who were fully vaccinated three months ago.
“The recommendation was made to boost immunity, as study has shown that immunity levels start declining after three months of vaccination,” Dr Ramesh Kanta Adhikari, chairman of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee, told the Post.
Many countries throughout the globe have been offering booster shots after three months. But Nepal had decided to provide booster shots only after six months of the administration of the second dose, due to limited vaccine stock.
“Now we don’t have any issue about availability of the vaccine,” said Lal, director at the Family Welfare division. “The World Health Organisations too has said that booster shots can be administered after three to six months of administration of the second dose of the vaccine.”
The top health regulator of the United States—the Food and Drug Administration–has authorized a fourth Pfizer and Moderna dose for people aged 50 and older having compromised immunity.
Health Ministry officials said that health agencies under local and provincial governments have asked them to give permission to administer booster shots before the start of the typhoid vaccination drive, which is set to begin on April 8.
Nepal started immunising people with Covid-19 vaccine from January 27 last year. Despite the initial hitch, the country managed to secure sufficient doses of coronavirus vaccines of at least six brands—AstraZeneca, Vero Cell, Moderna, Janssen, Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Until Friday, 19,115,357 people or 65.5 percent of the total population have been fully vaccinated and 2,183,913 have taken booster shots.
The Health Ministry said the COVAX facility, the United Nations backed international vaccine-sharing scheme, has supplied 738,330 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday evening. The doses are part of the 1.5 million doses the facility had promised to provide to Nepal in March. COVAX is to supply 9.2 million doses, which would be shipped in lots of 1.5 million doses per month until August.
With the latest consignment, Nepal has received 53,382,800 doses of various vaccines—AstraZeneca, Vero Cell, Moderna, Janssen, Sinovac-CoronaVac and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Meanwhile, officials at the Ministry of Health and Population said that they will request COVAX not to supply additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for now, to avoid storage problems.
With the supply of 4 million doses of Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine in a single lot by China, 1.5 million Pfizer-BioNTech doses by COVAX, and millions of typhoid vaccine doses by the Global Alliance of Vaccine and Immunisation, health authorities have been facing storage problems.
Although the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine and typhoid vaccine can be stored in normal temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs to be kept in minus 80 degrees Celsius in an ultra cold freezer for a longer-term storage and between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for up to 31 days. However, after mixing it with the diluent, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has to be used within six hours.
Officials at the Health Ministry said that only the central store in Kathmandu has the capacity to hold the vaccine in minus 80 degrees Celsius.
The central storage can store upto two million doses at a time at minus 80 degrees Celsius.
“We have decided to request COVAX not to supply Pfizer doses for now,” said Dr Surendra Chaurasia, the chief of the Logistic Management Section under the Department of Health Services.The ministry is preparing to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign against typhoid from April 8. For the campaign, the Global Alliance of Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) has delivered the required doses. Around seven million children between the ages of 15 months and 15 years will be immunised with typhoid vaccine during the month-long campaign, according to officials.