Pfizer vaccine rollout hits a snag as Nepal runs out of syringes

Nepal’s Pfizer vaccine rollout for children becomes uncertain as COVAX facility delays delivery of syringes.

Photo: Reuters

Ashim Neupane

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Kathmandu: The government’s plan to administer the Pfizer vaccine to children aged 12-18 has become uncertain as there are no syringes for the vaccination campaign.

The Ministry of Health and Population is yet to start vaccinating children with the Pfizer vaccine as the COVAX facility is delivering a consignment of syringes to Nepal later, confirmed Dr Sangita Mishra, spokesperson at the Ministry.

On Friday, the United States delivered 664,560 doses of the Pfizer vaccine through the COVAX facility. However, the facility had not delivered the syringes required to administer the vaccine. As a result, the government has failed to kick off the campaign to inoculate children with Pfizer.

“The syringe required to administer the Pfizer vaccine is different from the syringe required to administer other vaccines,” said Dr Mishra, adding the vaccination campaign to inoculate other vaccines–AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson and Vero Cell–is running smoothly.

According to the Health Ministry, the United States, on Wednesday, is delivering syringes through the COVAX facility. “Although the Ministry has been informed that the syringe would arrive on Wednesday, we are not sure about the date,” an official at the Health Ministry told Nepal Live Today.

The vaccine campaign, however, would run smoothly in some vaccination centers on Wednesday as the Health Ministry has a small number of syringes left. “Some vaccination centers still have some quantity of syringes. It will be over today,” said Dr Mishra, adding the COVAX facility had also delivered ultra-cold freezers as the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored in cold temperature.

According to Surendra Chaurasia, chief of the Logistic Management Section under the Department of Health Services, the COVAX facility is delivering 10 percent additional syringes for the earlier-delivered Pfizer vaccines. “As soon as the syringes arrive, the government will run the campaign.

Earlier, Nepal Live Today reported that the government’s vaccination campaign was sluggish as a result of the limited number of syringes. Officials, however, refuted the news and claimed a huge quantity of syringes would arrive in Nepal within a few days.

“Even though the syringes from the COVAX facility will arrive in a few days, but the shortage of vaccines will not end anytime soon as more vaccines are arriving,” an official at the Department of Health Services told NL Today.

Earlier in October too, Nepal received a little more than 100,000 Pfizer vaccines from the United States through the COVAX facility. The vaccine was administered to chronically-ill people.

The government of Nepal has already signed an agreement to purchase six million doses of the Pfizer vaccine. If the government fails to manage syringes, the inoculation campaign would get affected.

According to Dr Baburam Marasini, a former director at the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, it is negligence from the government. “Why didn’t the government buy syringes before in order to run the vaccination campaign smoothly?” he questioned.