Nepal worried about future supply of COVID-19 vaccines

KATHMANDU, NEPAL (AP) — Nepal has had a successful start of its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, but authorities are worried about future supplies as the country competes with dozens of other nations for much-sought vaccines produced by a handful of manufacturers.

The government is negotiating with India’s Serum Institute to obtain five million doses for the second stage of the campaign, in which 3.7 million elderly people are to be inoculated starting this weekend, Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said yesterday.

Nepal received a gift from the Indian government in January of one million doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine manufactured under licence by India’s Serum Institute. Nepal also purchased another two million doses from the company at a subsidised rate with the help of the Indian government.

“There is huge worldwide demand for vaccines from a handful of companies and we could be at the very end of the list,” Tripathi said.

“So far, we have been able to get vaccines with both political and administrative help from India. However, I am very worried now.”

He said he is hopeful that Indian authorities will again help their small northern neighbour.

“We will not be able to get the vaccine through simple commercial deals with the company because we are competing with dozens of other countries, so we need the influence of the (Indian) government,” he said.

Nepal is also receiving a gift of 500,000 doses of a Chinese vaccine this month. Tripathi, however, said Nepal has not decided whether to purchase more of it.

“The AstraZenneca vaccine is the one preferred by the world and also approved and recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO),” he said.

Russia has also offered to provide 25 million doses of its Sputnik vaccine, but Nepal has asked for additional documents before it can start reviewing it, he said.