The government has raised its hands on the possibility of providing the public with the second dose of Covishield vaccine in the near future.
Speaking during the televised COVID update on Sunday, Dr Taranath Pokhrel, Chief of the Health and Population Ministry’s Family Welfare Division, said it was highly unlikely that the government could procure Covishield vaccines any time soon.
A total of 1.3 million people over the age of 65 across the country and over 55 years of age in 14 districts, who took the first dose of Covishield after March 7, have been awaiting their second dose.
The World Health Organization recommends a second dose between 8 and 12 weeks after the first dose.
Dr Pokharel said, “The first dose was administered about 11 weeks ago, but we haven’t been able to secure enough vaccines for the second dose despite various efforts.”
He reiterated the government’s claim that the Ministry of Health had taken a diplomatic initiative and was in touch with pharmaceutical companies to procure vaccines soon, but added that the dates or specifics of getting any vaccine from any country were unclear as of yet.
Inaugurating the nation-wide vaccination campaign on January 27, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had announced, live on television, that all Nepalis would be vaccinated within three months.
He had said, “All Nepalis will be vaccinated within the next three months. We will provide the vaccines free of charge on in a non-discriminatory basis.”
But whenever politicians make promises in the name of citizens, they are usually talking about people close to them and people with political as well as social capital.
Cases in point – big-wigs in Biratnagar were recently secretly administered the second dose; and before that the near and dear ones of Members of Parliament were given the second dose of Covishield in Kathmandu despite them not being eligible.
None held accountable for the anomaly.
On May 28, Friday, industrialists and party cadres of the ruling UML were secretly being administered the second dose of Covishield vaccine at a local cinema hall in Tinpaini.
After getting a whiff of the situation, local residents had gathered in hoards outside the cinema hall and demanded that general public also be provided with the vaccines.
Reportedly, the state government – ruled by CPN-UML — was initially preparing to administer the second dose of Covishield vaccines, provided by the Ministry of Social Development, to local industrialists and party cadres at the Chief Minister’s Office.
But the plan was later scrapped and venue shifted to the cinema hall after acknowledging that gathering at the CM’s office would attract a crowd.
Sherdhan Rai, an elected parliamentary party leader of CPN-UML, is the Chief Minister of Province 1.
Police personnel learned about the situation only after they went to inspect a large crowd of people that had gathered, in protest, outside the cinema hall. No arrests were made.