While various countries are in the final stages of either developing or purchasing vaccines against coronavirus, Nepal government has not even prepared the necessary budget to import the vaccines.
Experts have urged that a budget should be set up immediately to spend on the purchase, management, transportation, training, and for other procedures to bring anti-COVID vaccines in the country.
Senior public health expert, Dr Sharad Wanta said, “Whether the vaccines will be provided at a concessional price or free of cost or fully paid, appropriate funds need to be allocated and the government should immediately prepare for other vaccine related procedures.”
Pakistan, on Wednesday, announced that they have set a budget of 100 million dollars for the advance purchase of anti-COVID vaccines. Other countries, including Bangladesh, have also put forward plans to set up a fund for the purchase and import of the vaccines.
According to Dr Wanta, most vaccine manufacturers include research and development cost of vaccines and add a profit margin as well, therefore, countries might need to pay a higher price in the early days to import the vaccines. It is necessary to prepare a budget for vaccine purchase by estimating the needed quantity in a country, he said.
Former Director of Epidemiology and Disease Control Division and a member of Coronavirus Vaccine Management Committee, Dr GD Thakur said, “Despite the announcement by vaccine manufacturers that the product will be available at a lower price, we do not expect the vaccines to be available for free. Hence, there is an urgent need to seperate a reasonable amount of fund for vaccine purchase.”
He pointed out that with the success of the third phase of clinical trial of vaccines, there is already a huge shortage in the world market as many countries have already signed contract with companies for advance purchase of vaccines.
Experts say that storage of vaccines can be as challenging as buying them.
“Some of the mRNA vaccines being prepared for coronavirus should be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius to minus 80 degrees Celsius,” said Dr Jhalak Sharma Gautam, head of immunization branch of Ministry of Health and Population, adding, “This increases the complexity in distribution costs and operations. The distribution cost of vaccines to be kept in extreme cold is 3 to 6 times more expensive than vaccines to be kept at a temperature of 2 to 8 degree Celsius.”
So far, in the third phase of the trial, the US-based biotech company Moderna’s vaccine ‘MRNA-1273’ has claimed effectiveness of 94.5 percent and Pfizer has claimed 95 percent efficiency. Similarly, the Sputnik vaccine manufactured by Russia is said to be 92 percent effective.