Over 3 million Pfizer and Moderna vaccine doses to be rolled out after local electionsFour million Sinovac-CoronaVac doses gifted by China to be rolled out only after all other Covid vaccine doses are used up.
The Ministry of Health and Population said that it will roll out over 3 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines only after the May 13 local elections.
Covid vaccine uptake has declined significantly of late and the chances of vaccine doses going to waste will be high if vaccination is resumed before the local elections, officials say.
“We will roll out the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines only after the local elections,” said Dr Surendra Chaurasia, chief of the Logistic Management Section under the Department of Health Services. “There is a high chance of doses going to waste for a lack of takers before the elections.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses, which are being stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius in ultra cold freezers, can be reserved in normal temperatures (2 to 8 degrees Celsius) for up to 31 days. If not used within 31 days of the rollout, the vaccine doses must be discarded.
Likewise, the Moderna vaccine also needs to be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius and can be stored in normal temperatures (2 to 8 degrees Celsius) for up to 31 days. If not used within 31 days of the rollout, Moderna doses too must be discarded.
The Health Ministry said that there are over 3.1 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines in its central store in Kathmandu.
The government has requested the COVAX facility to halt shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine due to storage problems. The facility, the United Nations-backed international vaccine-sharing scheme, had committed to supply 9.2 million doses of the said vaccine, supplied 1.5 million doses in March. The supply of the rest of the doses has been put on hold at the request of the Nepal government.
With a decline in the coronavirus cases in the country, very few people are seeking Covid jabs. The Health Ministry had decided to administer booster shots to all people, who were administered with the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine three months ago, but there has been no significant increase in the uptake.
On Monday, 38,359 people were vaccinated against Covid.
So far, 19,701,003 people or 67.5 percent of the total population have been fully immunised. The Health Ministry said that so far 3,665,435 people have taken Covid booster shots as of Sunday.
Currently, there are 190 active cases of coronavirus throughout the country.
The Health Ministry said that there are over 10 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in stock. Of them, four million doses are the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine provided by China in grant assistance. The vaccine doses were supplied in March.
Officials at the Health Ministry said that the Sinovac-CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out only after all the vaccine doses in stock are used up. The Sinovac-CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine has a shelf life of two years.
So far the country has received 53,381,570 doses of various vaccines—AstraZeneca, Vero Cell, Moderna, Janssen, Sinovac-CoronaVac and Pfizer-BioNTech.
Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has urged the public to follow safety measures to mitigate the risk of Covid infection in light of a new surge in cases in neighbouring India.
“We would like to urge everyone to get inoculated for their own safety and that of their family members” reads the press statement issued by the Health Ministry on Sunday. “Immunisation centres have been in operation and will resume operations after the election day.”
India on Monday registered 3,207 new Covid infections and 29 deaths. Officials said that the risk of a new surge of the virus in Nepal has been growing given the uptick in cases in India since cross border traffic is registered in the thousands daily through various border points.
Thousands of migrant workers toiling in India are believed to have returned to the country for the local elections scheduled for Friday.