KATHMANDU: China will provide 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Nepal on a grant basis, officials here said on Saturday, supplying the first batch of vaccine aid for the Himalayan nation.
During a telephonic conversation with his Nepali counterpart Pradeep Gyawali on Friday evening, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured that China would accord priority to Nepal in vaccine cooperation, according to a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.
Wang announced that China will provide 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Nepal on a grant basis, it said.
According to a report by the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, during the phone conversation with Gyawali, Wang said China attaches great importance to Nepal's urgent need of COVID-19 vaccines and has decided to provide the first batch of vaccine aid for the country.
The Embassy of China in Kathmandu recently said that China would provide 300,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that is expected to benefit 150,000 Nepali people.
During the telephonic conversation between the two foreign ministers, China increased the grant assistance to 500,000 doses, My Republica portal reported.
However, the Chinese company producing the vaccine is yet to submit all necessary documents to the Nepal government.
Without the green signal from the government, the BIBP-CorV vaccine -- developed by Sinopharm -- cannot be brought to Nepal, the report said.
China's move to supply the coronavirus vaccine to Nepal is seen as Beijing's efforts to step-up its vaccine diplomacy amid projections from experts that India could become a key player in distributing the jabs to the world.
Known as the 'pharmacy of the world', India produces 60 per cent of vaccines globally.
On January 22, India gifted 1 million doses of domestically manufactured COVID-19 vaccines to Nepal.
The vaccine is currently being administered to frontline health workers, employees and security personnel.
A number of countries in the subcontinent, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where Beijing has substantial investments, caught China by surprise by opting for Indian vaccines.
So far, India has sent consignments of coronavirus vaccines under grant assistance to Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Seychelles, Myanmar and Mauritius.
It is also undertaking commercial supplies of the doses to a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil and Morocco.