US announces Covid-19 vaccines for Nepal and other countriesNot clear how many doses Nepal gets from 7 million Washington allocated for over a dozen Asian nations.
The United States said on Thursday that it would distribute 7 million Covid-19 vaccines with Asian countries, including Nepal.
Though it was not immediately clear how many doses Nepal would receive, the announcement could come as a respite for the country which is struggling to secure vaccines as the coronavirus crisis has been deepening.
In its announcement, the White House said, “Approximately 7 million for Asia to the following countries and entities: India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands.”
Thursday’s announcement is part of an earlier pledge the United States had made that it would share at least 80 million doses of vaccine doses globally by the end of June.
The recent plan is for the first 25 million doses, according to the White House.
After coming under intense pressure with reports suggesting that the United States was sitting on a stockpile of vaccines, the White House on April 26 announced that it would share around 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine with the world.
Remaining 20 million doses that the United States can share are from other companies.
Nepal has for long been asking the US to provide vaccines, given the coronavirus crisis it has been battling. The United States had come forward to offer medical supplies but it had not provided vaccines.
Nepalis at home and abroad had even petitioned, demanding that the United States provide vaccines to Nepal.
The second wave has hit Nepal hard. Around 40-50 percent of total tests are returning positive results. The country’s health system is cracking under pressure.
Experts say the only way to control the spread of the virus is vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible. But the government has been struggling to secure vaccines.
Despite being one of the first countries to launch the vaccination drive, Nepal is struggling to inoculate its population, as the government has not been able to acquire vaccines.
Nepal so far has vaccinated around 5 percent of the 30 million population. Just a little over 1 percent of people have been fully vaccinated.
In a desperate bid, President Bidya Devi Bhandari last week had written to US President Joe Biden to help provide vaccines to Nepal.
After the US announcement to provide vaccines to Asian countries, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Thursday night thanked the American government for the support.
“We welcome the US decision to provide Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal,” Oli said on Twitter. “Thank you @POTUS, @VP for responding to our appeal for these precious life-saving doses! Nepal and Nepali people remain grateful. This reaffirms the strength of Nepal-US friendship.”
Nepal started its vaccination drive on January 27 with the 1 million doses of Covishild, the AstraZeneca type vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. The government then in February paid the Serum for 2 million more doses. After supplying 1 million doses, the Serum on March 3 said it won’t be able to provide additional doses, given the demand in India, which was seeing an unprecedented surge of coronavirus cases.
On March 7, Nepal received 348,000 doses of Covishield under COVAX, an international vaccine-sharing scheme backed by the United Nations.
On March 29, the China-gifted 800,000 doses of Sinopharm’s BBIP-CorV arrived in Nepal.
Thereafter, the supplies halted.
The government was in a fix and it scrambled for getting more vaccines, as the country was reporting around 7000-8,000 daily new cases and over 100 new deaths a day.
Amid this, China last week announced that it would provide 1 million doses of vaccines under grant assistance. A little over 800,000 doses arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday.
After COVAX came under pressure, failing to get vaccines, Nepal’s vaccine crisis has deepened.
According to the White House, Thursday’s plan to share vaccines would be under COVAX.
It was not immediately clear when the vaccines announced by the US would arrive in Nepal.
A Nepali diplomat in Washington DC said the Nepali embassy is waiting for the breakdown to ascertain how many doses Nepal would actually receive.
“We have just heard about the announcement,” said the official at the Embassy of Nepal in the United States over the phone. “We are trying to work out on the number of doses, as we have sought some directly from the US government also.”