Nepal’s Covid-19 vaccination drive: Where exactly do we stand?

NL Today

  • Read Time 5 min.

Kathmandu: Nepal has lifted nearly all restrictions imposed to stem the spread of coronavirus. With Covid-19 restriction relaxed, health experts are worried that a third wave can hit the country any time soon with people flouting Covid-19 norms. Getting people vaccinated is the only way out of the pandemic. But ensuring vaccines to its citizens is a daunting task for countries like Nepal.  

As things stand, as many as 2.9 million people have received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 1.1 million people have received both doses. A total of 1.4 million elderly citizens in Nepal who received the first jab in April are still waiting for the second dose.

In February, the erstwhile government had announced to vaccinate 72 percent of the total population against Covid-19. A recently-formed government has declared to vaccinate all eligible citizens by mid-April next year, one-third of them by mid-October this year.

Where does Nepal stand in the inoculation drive? Here is an update by Nepal Live Today.

Nepal received around three million vaccines as a grant

As of Saturday, Nepal has received 2.9 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines–Covishield and Vero Cell—under grant assistance from India and China. In January, the government of India donated a million doses of Covishield vaccine to Nepal as a grant.

 The vaccine, jointly developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca – a British-Swedish pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical company and produced by the Serum Institute of India—helped Nepal start a vaccination campaign at a time when only a few countries were able to vaccinate its citizens.

In March, China had donated 800,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal. Likewise on May 26, during a telephone conversation with President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced to provide one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines under grant assistance. As per the announcement, a total of 900,000 doses of Vero Cell arrived in Nepal on June 1, and the remaining 100,000 doses on June 3.

Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi (L) hands over vaccines donated to Nepal to Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi. (File photo/Chinese Embassy)

The Indian Army has also provided 100,000 doses of Covishield vaccine to the Nepal Army to vaccinate military personnel.

How many doses has Nepal purchased?

So far, the government has been able to purchase only 1.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine. Of the total doses, one million have arrived from India and the remaining 800,000 have been imported from China.

On February 17, the government signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to procure two million doses of Covishield vaccine. As per the deal, a million doses of vaccine arrived in Nepal on February 21, however, the remaining doses are yet to arrive in Nepal. Although the government of Nepal has already paid for a million doses, the company is refusing to send the remaining doses before the end of 2021.

Then on July 2, the government announced that Nepal has reached a non-disclosure deal with China to purchase four million doses of Vero Cell vaccine. As per the deal, 800,000 doses of vaccine arrived in Nepal in the first week of July, and the remaining doses are arriving this week, officials say.

Nepal received 1.8 million vaccines under COVAX

 Under the COVAX facility–backed by the World Health Organization–Nepal has received 1.8 million doses of Covishield and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. On March 7, a total of 348,000 Covishield vaccines arrived in Nepal through the COVAX facility. The government inoculated the vaccines to elderly people and frontliners.

US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry (L) and the then Health Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha during the handover ceremony,

On July 12, the United States of America, through the COVAX facility, sent 1.5 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines to Nepal. So far, Nepal has received 1.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines through the facility.

Pledges from China and Japan

As of Saturday, two countries–Japan and China–have pledged to provide Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal. On Friday, Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and informed the government that China is providing an additional 1.6 million doses of Vero Cell vaccine under grant assistance.

 Likewise, the government of Japan has also promised to send Japan-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX facility. According to the Health Ministry, the vaccine received from Japan will be inoculated to 1.6 million elderly people waiting for the second dose of vaccine.

How many people have been vaccinated so far?

According to the Health Ministry, as many as 2.9 million people have received the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 1.1 million people have received both doses. The government has planned to vaccinate 72 percent of the population against the pandemic.

 The government started the vaccination campaign against the pandemic on February 27 with the Covishield vaccine received from India under grant assistance. In the first phase of the vaccination drive, the government had planned to inoculate around 430,000 frontline workers–health workers, health volunteers, security personnel, sanitation workers, among few others–with the Covishield vaccine. However, only over 184,000 frontliners were vaccinated in the first phase.

On March 7, the government rolled out the second phase of the vaccination campaign aiming at inoculating elderly people above 64 years.

A woman receives a jab of ‘Covishield’. (File photo/Nepal Live Today)

With the vaccine received from India and those through COVAX facility, the government inoculated as many as 1.4 million elderly people.

On April 27, the government started to administer the Vero Cell vaccine to remaining frontline workers, Nepali students studying in China under scholarship, essential workers, and those involved in trans-Himalayan trade activities.

In the meantime, the government halted the ongoing vaccination campaign citing a shortage of vaccines. The Health Ministry has said that the vaccination campaign will resume once the remaining vaccine purchased from China arrives in Nepal.

How many doses are arriving soon?

According to the Health Ministry, Nepal is receiving 6.4 million doses of vaccines in the next few weeks. The vaccine purchased from China is arriving in Nepal in the next 10 days, said the Health Ministry. Likewise, the Japan-made Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will also arrive in Nepal in the next few weeks.

Vaccines receivedNumber of doses
From India under donation1 million doses
From China under donation1.8 million doses
Through COVAX facility1.8 million doses
Indian Army100,000 doses 
Purchased from India    1 million doses
From China (purchased)800,000 doses
Total: 6.5 million doses 

Vaccines arriving soon 

From China (donation)1.6 million doses
From China (purchased)3.2 million doses
From Japan under COVAX facility1.6 million doses
Total: 6.4 million doses