KATHMANDU, Nov 10: A day after Pfizer Inc said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90 percent effective, the government has started discussions to procure the vaccine for Nepali nationals.
“The government has started discussing procuring the vaccine. The government’s agenda is to bring a possible COVID-19 vaccine at the earliest,” a source at the Ministry of Health and Population, told Republica.
A meeting has been scheduled this afternoon between high-ranking government officials to discuss bringing a possible COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal.
A Cabinet meeting held Monday also formed a committee comprising secretaries from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health and Population, and Ministry of Finance to discuss the idea of procuring possible COVID-19 vaccines.
“The high-level committee will carry out a research on the vaccines being developed in foreign countries. The committee will recommend to the government to procure vaccines being developed in the foreign markets,” said the source, adding that the government is seriously mulling over procuring ‘effective’ COVID-19 vaccines.
“Obviously, the government’s priority will be to bring the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. But, it is about availability and cost. So, the government might bring other vaccines if the Pfizer vaccine is too expensive,” said the source.
The government is also mulling over conducting phase III clinical trials of a possible COVID-19 vaccine being developed in China in Nepal.
Although the government initiated talks with several companies a few months ago, the process to bring a possible COVID-19 vaccine to Nepal was obstructed as health experts’ views were divided over the safety of the vaccines.
Earlier in August, the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) had started preparations for clinical trials of investigational vaccines being developed against COVID-19 in Nepal. The Council had held talks with three different companies to conduct vaccine trials in Nepal.
Earlier, the NHRC held discussions to bring in Covidshield — a vaccine developed by Oxford University — to conduct trials in Nepal. Likewise, the Russian Embassy earlier was also positive about conducting phase III clinical trials of “Sputnik-V” – a vaccine developed against COVID-19 - in Nepal. The government is also holding talks with an Australian company to bring a possible COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the World Health Organization, 11 vaccines developed in several parts of the world are in the third phase of clinical trials.