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Editorial: Vaccines for Nepal: Too little too late

Editorial: Vaccines for Nepal: Too little too late

We have been there, done that. Confusion again reigns all around as the country continues to reel under an acute vaccine shortage, and the prohibitory orders are being lifted in various parts of the country, including Kathmandu Valley.

Less than three percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. For those who have gotten only their first dose, or around a tenth of the population, there is no guarantee of a second. The procurement process for more vaccines, we hear, has long been underway. Yet as of this writing, it is unclear where the next shipment is coming from. Instead, some disturbing news on vaccine delivery has emerged. Many elderly folks have been turned away from vaccine centers that supposedly ran out of jabs. But then there are also reports of expired vaccines being thrown away. These vaccines had reportedly been set aside for VVIPs but many of them didn’t show up on time.

Separately, the recent vaccination drive in Kathmandu with the China-made Vero Cell had to be interrupted when ministers, bureaucrats, and even high-profile journalists started sending their kith and kin for jabs, usurping the right of those in the 60-64 age group to get their first shot. The drive has resumed, but it is cold comfort for the 1.5 million folks whose second dose of Covishield is long overdue. Experts have repeatedly pointed that only mass vaccination will help the country emerge from the corona contagion; the various restrictive measures will, at best, only slow down the rate of infection.

The Oli government has badly bungled the vaccination drive from the start. Now the country is reliant on the goodwill of the international community to provide it with enough vaccines, mostly through the WHO’s COVAX initiative. The initiative has promised around 350,000 vaccine doses by the end of July. That is nearly not enough. The restrictive measures are being eased but without enough vaccines to inoculate the vast majority of the population, it will only be a matter of time before they return. And it could be much worse the next time.