China has committed to provide an additional 300,000 doses of vaccines against COVID-19 to Nepal.
Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi tweeted on Monday that a total of 800,000 doses, including the additional 300,000 doses, of vaccines would be provided to Nepal as grant.
Earlier, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi had promised that China would provide 500,000 doses of vaccines against COVID-19 to Nepal. Wang had made the commitment in a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Pradip Kumar Gyawali according to a statement issued by Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 5.
“In order to support Nepal’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government has decided to increase grant assistance of vaccine for Nepal to 800,000 doses,” Ambassador Hou tweeted.
The Chinese Embassy has stated that it will take initiatives to bring the vaccines to Nepal as soon as possible.
Earlier on January 31, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal had announced that the Chinese government would provide a grant of 300,000 doses of vaccines to Nepal, but the number has been gradually increased ever since.
The vaccines pledged by China are produced by its state-owned company China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). The vaccine has already been approved by the Government of Nepal for use here.
Nepal first received 1,000,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine called Covishield free of charge from India on January 22 under Narendra Modi’s ‘neighbors first policy’.
The vaccine is manufactured by Serum Institute of India in collaboration with the University of Oxford and the British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
On February 21, as many as 1,000,000 doses of Covishield vaccines arrived in Kathmandu from India. The government had signed an agreement with the Serum Institute on February 17 to purchase 2,000,000 doses of Covishield vaccines and the first batch of which were brought on February 21.
Similarly, Nepal is all set to receive 2,256,000 doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford and Serum Institute of India’s vaccines next month under the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organisation, as co-leads of the COVAX initiative for equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Nepal launched its immunisation drive on January 27 beginning with medical workers, and plans to eventually cover 72% of the country’s 30 million people.
In recent years, China and India have jockeyed for influence in Nepal and poured millions of dollars into aid and investment in infrastructure.
But demand for vaccines in the country with poor health infrastructure has offered India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, a way to claw back ground. India has donated or sold COVID-19 shots to two dozen countries.
Two other vaccines – Russia’s Sputnik V and one made by India’s Bharat Biotech – are waiting to be cleared by the government.