Pfizer vaccines arrive in Nepal

The 100,620 doses of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Kathmandu on Monday. Photos: AMIT MACHAMASI

The first 100,620 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine under the global COVAX initiative arrived in Kathmandu on Monday, even as the country’s rate for fully vaccinated population nears 23%.

The BioNTech doses, however, will not be administered to children above age 12 as previously expected, but to cancer and kidney patients undergoing treatment in hospitals across the country.  

The consignment was taken from the airport directly to the ultra-cold storage facility of the Department of Health in Teku. Pfizer vaccines have to be stored at -70o Celsius, even while most hospitals in Kathmandu only have standard refrigeration facilities and the government is yet to build required infrastructure across the country to store the jabs.

Pfizer with Moderna are the only Covid vaccines so far approved for children above 12 years of age, and as such younger population was prioritised for the shots. However, the limited number of doses meant that children will now be inoculated only once Nepal secures more doses. Nepal government has reportedly already paid for 4 million doses of Moderna through the World Bank, which will be arriving in February 2021.

According to the Health Ministry, given that Pfizer shots have been effective in containing the spread of Covid-19 patients suffering from chronic illnesses elsewhere around the world, people with cancer and kidney ailments will now be prioritised for the next round of inoculation.

The US under the COVAX facility previously donated 1.53 million of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in July, which was administered to migrant workers, students leaving for colleges abroad, people with disabilities and individuals between 50-55 years of age.

Close to 19 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have arrived in Nepal so far. Apart from 4 million doses of Moderna, 5.9 million Chinese VeroCell is in the pipeline. Another 1.6 million pledged by the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi to his Nepal counterpart Narayan Khadka does not have an arrival date yet, nor the 1 million Sinovac, also promised by China.

India has also resumed the export of its Covishield vaccine, but is yet to send the remaining one million does Nepal paid for earlier this year.

Some 15 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across Nepal, with 22.3 of its targeted population inoculated fully. Close to 30% Nepalis have been partially vaccinated. Over half of Kathmandu’s population has been vaccinated against the virus but public health experts have warned of a post-Dasain surge in the number of cases.

Meanwhile, the District Health Office Kathmandu is administering second dose of AstraZeneca in eight municipalities including KMC, Kirtipur, Chandrafiri, Nagarjun, Kageswori Manohora, Tarkeswor, Tokha and Gokarneswor for people above 18 years of age from 26 October.

Vaccines that have arrived in Nepal so far:

Covidshield donated by India: 1 million doses

Covidshield bought from India: 1 million doses

Covishield via COVAX: 348,000 doses

Covidshield donated to Nepal Army: 100,000

VeroCell donated by China: 800,000

VeroCell donated China: 1 million

Johnson & Johnson via COVAX: 1.53 million

VeroCell bought from China: 4 million

AstraZeneca donated from Bhutan: 230,000

AstraZeneca donated from Japan: 1.6 million

VeroCell bought from China: 1.6 million

VeroCell donated from Red Cross: 100,000

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