Uncertainty over availability of vaccine worries senior citizensAround 278,322 people in Lumbini Province are waiting for the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
Sarala Uprety, aged 75, of Aandabag in Kapilvastu Municipality-1 has been inquiring about the availability of the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine at the local health office for the past month. She was administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine on March 7.
She often calls her son in Kathmandu and daughter who is now in Japan and asks them to look into the vaccination dates.
“When I call the health office, the health workers say they don’t have the vaccines,” said Uprety.
Sixty-five-year-old Grischandra Dube of Kapilvastu-3 has also been inquiring with his family members and acquaintances about the arrival of the second dose of vaccines.
“Two to three people have died of coronavirus in our neighbourhood. I am very worried about my health,” said Dube. “I would feel greatly relieved if only I were fully vaccinated.”
In Tilottama Municipality-6 in Rupandehi district, senior citizens are awaiting the second dose of vaccine for similar reasons. Ekanath Simkhada, 73, says he was administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine on March 15.
“We were told to get our second jabs a month ago. I had gone to the local health post but the health workers turned me away,” said Simkhada, who is waiting for his second dose of Covishield. “Just getting the first dose might not be effective to shield us from the virus. I think it will be of no use if we don’t get the second dose.”
Thousands of senior citizens like Uprety, Dube and Simkhada in several districts of Lumbini Province are awaiting the second dose of Covid-19 vaccines. They have expressed their displeasure and concerns as the government authorities have not been able to procure the second dose so far.
“The first dose of Covid-19 vaccine boosted my confidence. But the second wave of the pandemic has proved to be fatal and I feel my confidence faltering. We must get our second dose soon,” said Dandapani Sharma, 75, of Butwal-11.
According to Dr Rajendra Giri, chief at the District Health Office in Rupandehi, a total of 37,591 people above the age of 65 were administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccines in Rupandehi. He is unclear about the availability of the second dose of vaccines for those who have taken the first jab.
“We don’t have vaccines. The country doesn’t have vaccines so if the situation worsens, we will be caught unprepared yet again,” Giri said.
According to the District Health Office in Kapilvastu, more than 27,000 senior citizens across 10 local units in Kapilvastu are waiting for the second dose. The health office ran the vaccination drive through 94 vaccine centres across Kapilvastu district.
“We have asked the provincial government to immediately manage the second dose of vaccines for the elderly population,” said Hemraj Pandey, the chief at the health office in Kapilvastu.
Senior citizens across the country were administered the Covishield vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India from March 7 to 15.
In Kapilvastu, the vaccination drive for those above 65 was launched between March 7 and 13.
According to the World Health Organisation, the second dose of the vaccine is recommended within 8 to 12 weeks after getting the first jab. The senior citizens of Kapilvastu, therefore, should have been given the second dose by the end of May.
In Banke, around 20,000 people are waiting for the second dose. According to Bheshraj Sharma, the immunisation officer at Banke Health Office, those above 65 years of age were administered the first dose of Covid-19 vaccines from March 7 to 12.
“The second dose should be administered within three months. But there is still no supply of vaccines,” said Sharma.
In Palpa, around 16,500 elderly people are waiting for the second dose.
Around 69,000 people—mainly frontline health workers and security personnel—have received both doses of Covid-19 vaccines in Lumbini Province as of now.
According to Kaushal Bhandari, the Covid-19 focal person at the Lumbini Provincial Health Directorate, 278,322 people in the province are waiting for the second dose of vaccine. It is still uncertain when they will be administered the second dose, he said.
(Sanju Paudel in Lumbini, Madhu Shahi in Banke & Madhav Aryal in Palpa contributed reporting.)