All adults will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by mid-April: Health Minister Khatiwada

File – Minister for Health and Population Birodh Khatiwada speaks during an interview with the Associated press in Kathmandu, on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. Photo: AP via RSS

KATHMANDU: The government will obtain enough vaccines to immunise all adults against COVID-19 by mid-April and is focusing on getting doses into remote mountainous areas, Minister for Health and Population Birodh Khatiwada said on Wednesday.

Minister Khatiwada was quoted in an interview taken by The Associated Press as saying that the government would hire workers and set up vaccination centres to meet the target. “We are going to meet our target or even exceed our goal because we are already getting enough vaccines,” said Khatiwada, who was appointed Minister for Health and Population last month. He said, “We are going to hire more health workers so they are able to reach all remote corners of the country and set up new vaccine centres to reach all the population.”

Nepal’s immunisation campaign began in January with vaccines donated by neighbouring India but stalled when India faced a devastating surge of COVID-19 and halted vaccine exports.

Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) records show 44 per cent of Nepal’s adults have received at least one dose and 37.5 per cent are fully vaccinated. Adults comprise about 72 per cent of Nepal’s population of 30 million. So far, only people over age 18 have received vaccines, but the country plans to immunise people those 12 to 17 when doses are available.

With the disruption to vaccines from India, China stepped in, selling millions of doses. Nepal has also received vaccines donated by the United States through the UN distribution facility COVAX.

Still, shortages have continued in Nepal all year and when vaccine centres have opened they have been overwhelmed with crowds of people seeking to be immunised.

Minister Khatiwada said about 22 million doses of vaccines have been administered, adding that another 30 million doses would arrive in the next few months.

“The Cabinet this week approved a proposal to purchase 6 million doses of Pfizer vaccine from the United States while we are getting another 4 million Moderna vaccines,” Khatiwada said, adding that another 6 million doses were already purchased from China.

China has offered another 2 million vaccines as a gift while Switzerland is giving other half-million doses.

“We are not having shortages of vaccines anymore, but our main concern and focus now is on getting these vaccines to all corners of the country, including the remote mountain areas,” he said.

Nepal faced its worst crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic in April when hospitals were crowded with patients who were treated in garages and parking lots, and people waited in long queues for oxygen cylinders.

The government has imposed several lockdowns and has faced repeated criticism for its handling of the situation.

Nepal has reported a total of 815,372 cases of coronavirus and 11,454 deaths as of November 9, 2021.

Source: AP/RSS


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