KATHMANDU: As Nepal has received a million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from India, the Himalayan nation is set to start inoculation drive against the infection from next week.
Nepal's Minister of Health and Population, Hridayesh Tripathi, on Thursday, announced the commencement of the vaccination drive from next week and requested India for continued support to deliver the adequate number of vaccines to inoculate 72 percent of the nearly 30 million population of Nepal.
"We will start utilising vaccines within a week or ten days and we already have fixed the priority groups for inoculation," Tripathi said while addressing the ceremony of receiving the vaccines from India that landed in Kathmandu on Thursday.
One million doses of Oxford/Astrazenca vaccine 'Covishield' produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) landed in Nepali capital Kathmandu on Thursday afternoon. The vaccine that arrived in Nepal as grant assistance would be first administered to frontline workers.
"We have estimated that we would be requiring at least four million additional vaccines. After the beginning of the inoculation drive, we will face a situation that demands delivery of vaccines before the vaccination campaign ends," Tripathi said.
"This for now is a gift from India. Later on the basis of our needs and demands, we will advance forward with the purchase of vaccines. The vaccine procurement would be transparent for which we will require the continued support of Government of India and Indian Ambassador," he added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening promised to continue to support Nepal in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Thank You PM @kpsharmaoli. India remains committed to assisting the people of Nepal in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The vaccines being made in India will also contribute to the global efforts to contain the pandemic," PM Modi replied to the tweet by Nepali caretaker Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli who thanked India for the generous grant of one million doses of COVID vaccine.
Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, in his speech, also assured that India would continue to work for the spirit of people first and Neighborhood first Policy.
"One million doses of Indian Vaccine is also a testimony to what the Indian Prime Minister has repeatedly said that Indian capacity- capability in all areas of economic endeavour would always have in their mind, 'People first and Neighborhood First'. The One million doses of Indian manufactured COVID vaccine is a gift from people and Government of India to people and Government of Nepal," Ambassador Kwatra said.
India, the world's largest vaccine producer as well as pharmacy of the world, has already started shipping out coronavirus vaccine to its neighbours within a week of its national rollout.
On Wednesday, India sent 150,000 doses of vaccines to Bhutan and 100,000 doses to the Maldives.
"We prefer the Indian vaccine because it has been already rolled out in other neighbouring countries. Also, we have a proper system to store these vaccines," Director General of Department of Health Services, Nepal- Dipendra Raman Singh told ANI.
Nepal earlier last week approved the emergency use of the SII produced Covishield marking it as the first vaccine to get approval in the Himalayan nation.