‘Chaotic’ is the word to describe Nepal’s anti-Covid vaccination drive thus far. Take the new confusion of those in the 60-65 age bracket. Earlier phases of vaccination had covered those over 65. When the next age-wise vaccination started, it was said those aged 45-49 would be jabbed. The 60-65 bracket seems to have escaped the minds of those who decide these things—or if there is a valid reason for the omission, most of the elderly folks in this age group have no clue about it. There appears to be as big a confusion over the safety of the Chinese vaccines now being administered.
If the vaccines are safe, the government has not bothered to inform the people and remove their doubts. This in turn has sparked a further speculation: perhaps even those administering the vaccines are unsure. To make things more confusing, it was announced that the 800,000 available doses of the Chinese vaccines would be given to all “essential workers”, without clarifying who fell into the two categories. As we have argued in this space before, if the contagion is to be halted, the government needs to do a far better job of informing and taking people into confidence.
Meanwhile, on April 19, new Covid-19 restrictions were announced. For the next three weeks, congregations with over 25 people have been banned. Schools and colleges have been forced shut. Restaurants will have to shut down by 8 pm. These restrictions had been expected amid the galloping rates of new Covid-19 infections, especially among school- and college-going students. A general lockdown of the kind enforced in 2020, which seemed to do more harm than good, has been wisely avoided.
To make a credible dent in infection rates, implementing a stricter surveillance mechanism on the porous Nepal-India border has to be the first order of business. As in the past, this time too Nepal has imported most Covid-19 infections across land borders with India. And a lot more vaccines need to be brought. What happened to Russian vaccines, one wonders. Wasn’t Russia sending enough of its Sputnik V vaccines to inoculate nearly every Nepali? Why haven’t any of them come? There is not a moment to lose in this fight against a cunning, shapeshifting virus. We certainly can’t afford the kind of chaos that has characterized Nepal’s vaccination drive to this point.