KATHMANDU, March 7: Nepal on Sunday received the first batch of COVAX vaccine against COVID-19 provided under the World Health Organisation's COVAX facility.
COVAX is the global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level.
The first batch of the coronavirus vaccines from the COVAX facility arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday, British ambassador to Nepal Nicola Pollitt tweeted.
Under the COVAX vaccine delivery concept, the government is planning to vaccinate three percent of the population involved in the health care and social sector in the first phase, followed by 17 percent including elderly and high risk people in the second phase. Then only the vaccines will be available for the general public.
COVAX has planned to purchase and supply as many as 2 Billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to participating nations by 2021.
Nepal today received the first consignment of COVID-19 vaccine doses shipped through the COVAX Facility, a partnership between CEPI, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO, made possible through donor support from governments, international organizations, foundations and the private sector.
The delivery of COVAX-procured vaccines to Nepal is part of a historic step towards ensuring equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history, according to a press release issued by the United Nations office in Kathmandu.
The goal of the COVAX Facility is to supply Nepal with enough doses to vaccinate 20% of the population depending on funding availability. Under the first COVAX allocation,the COVAX Facility will deliver 1.92 million vaccine doses to Nepal by the end of May 2021, in support of the Government of Nepal’s nation-wide vaccination campaign.
Today, the first COVAX shipment of 348,000 doses of AstraZeneca ‘Covishield’ vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), together with 350,000 syringes and 3500 vaccine safety boxes arrived in Kathmandu before being distributed to provinces and municipalities across the country.
COVAX-supported vaccines provide a critical contribution to the Government of Nepal’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NDVP) target to vaccinate roughly 22 million people, among them refugees, migrant returnees and other migrant populations.
The COVAX Facility is funded by partner governments, including the Governments of Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union as well as foundations and corporations.
The arrival of the COVAX supplied vaccines will boost Nepal’s vaccination efforts as it coincides with the launch of the second phase of the vaccination campaign which targets those who are most vulnerable to developing severe illness from COVID-19 including the elderly and people with comorbidities. The second phase will also target teachers, as part of the expanded group of frontline workers.
Ongoing public health measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 will continue to be critical alongside vaccination. This includes adhering to testing and quarantine measures, mask wearing, hand hygiene, and physical distancing of at least two meters.
Representatives of the COVAX technical and funding partners joined the Minister of Health and Population, Hridayesh Tripathi, in welcoming the global COVAX contribution to Nepal’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.
In the press release, development partners have congratulated Nepal for being among the first countries in the world to have launched COVID-19 vaccination efforts in January 2021.They reiterated their solidarity with Nepal, as exemplified by the arrival of the first COVAX vaccine contribution.
"Nepal’s development partners are committed to working with Nepal through the pandemic recovery period to ensure that no one is left behind. Supporting the vaccination of everyone living in Nepal through COVAX will go a long way to restoring normalcy, preventing the loss of social and economic gains made and paving the way for socio-economic recovery," read the press release.