Lawmakers, federal parliament staff to get vaccinated as House session is set to resume on March 7The decision to vaccinate them on March 2-4, of which Health Ministry officials are unaware, comes after the Supreme Court last week overturned Oli’s decision to dissolve the lower house.
Members of the House of Representatives and National Assembly as well as staffers of the Parliament Secretariat will receive vaccines against Covid-19 before the new session of the federal parliament commences on March 7, officials said on Sunday.
According to Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson for the Parliament Secretariat, around 1,500 individuals including lawmakers, officials at the secretariat, those working at the International Convention Centre, which houses the federal parliament, security personnel deployed there and marshals will be given the coronavirus jabs from March 2 to 4.
“An arrangement has been made to immunise lawmakers, staff and security personnel at Civil Hospital,” Pandey told the Post.
Officials at the Ministry of Health, however, said they are unaware of the decision to inoculate lawmakers before the second phase of the vaccination drive which is going to start from March 7.
“I am unaware of this decision,” Dr Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told the Post. “I can confirm only on Monday about this decision.”
Dr Roshan Pohrel, chief specialist at the Health Ministry, said that the ministry had planned to vaccinate lawmakers and those serving at the Parliament Secretariat during the second phase of the campaign.
“I don’t know about the decision of giving vaccines to lawmakers [on March 2-4],” Pokhrel told the Post. “We, however, had plans to immunise lawmakers and other staff in the second phase.”
Two other officials—Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for the Health Ministry, and Dr Jhalak Sharma, chief of the Child Health Section, the agency responsible for managing and supplying the jabs— also said they knew nothing about the decision to inoculate the lawmakers and others immediately.
The Health Ministry has been taking ad hoc decisions since the beginning of the pandemic.
After the Covid-19 vaccination drive was launched on January 27, with frontline workers as the first priority, the government on February 7 decided to inoculate those working at diplomatic missions and journalists. The move met with criticism for failing to expand the coverage to the elederly who are at high risk.
The first phase of the vaccination drive was launched with the 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine that Nepal had received from India in grant.
Nepal has already received another 1 million doses of the vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. Nepal reached a deal with the Indian vaccine manufacturer to procure 2 million doses about two weeks ago at $4 per dose.
Nepal is set to receive an additional 380,000 doses of vaccine under the World Health Organisation’s COVAX facility.
An official at the Health Ministry, who did not wish to be named, said that since most of the lawmakers are old and are at risk of infection, “the decision to vaccinate them is not wrong”.
“But if the authorities keep on changing rules and set new priorities on an ad hoc basis, when will the general public get vaccinated?” the official asked.
The government needs to vaccinate 72 percent of the country’s 30 million population as vaccines against Covid-19 are yet to be trialled on children under 14 years of age.
The decision to inoculate lawmakers follows the government recommendation on Friday that the new session of the federal parliament be called on March 7, after the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve the House on December 20.
In the first phase of vaccination, the government had planned to inoculate 430,000 people including frontline health workers.
But 184,857 people received the vaccine in the first round. The Health Ministry then inoculated journalists, staff of diplomatic missions, those serving in financial institutions and elected representatives of local and provincial governments, among others.