Wednesday, 14 April, 2021

Facilitating Vaccine Import

The government's decision to allow private companies to import coronavirus vaccines should be applauded, as it is expected to ease people's long wait for immunisation against the virus and the government's financial burden. Lately, the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) faced difficulties in procuring vaccines from India and other nations in time. The vaccine provider, the Serum Institute of India, has baulked at the idea of giving vaccines to Nepal as demanded. Some reports suggest the manufacturer has increased the vaccine price and it has to supply the crucial shots to other nations, too. As a result, our country has lacked sufficient vials of vaccines to inoculate people under different phases of the vaccination campaign that kicked off some two months ago.

The vaccine dearth became evident after the MoHP suspended vaccinating elderly people. If the situation persists, it would have a tough time providing the second dose to the people who have already received the first Covishield jab, though the health officials have vowed they would prevent such a situation. As the pressure has mounted, the Department of Drugs Administration (DDA) recently issued a notice asking manufactures and their authorised importers to apply for the import within a week to bring the government-approved or WHO-recognised vaccines and provide them to the needy. The idea behind allowing private companies is that the people who want to receive the jab at their own cost should do so without any hiccup.

Although the government is doing its best to import vaccines to immunise people free of cost, some people in the country say they can afford to pay for getting the vaccines. These groups of people do not wish to stand in long queues or wait for weeks to receive the government-funded shots. Therefore, there is no point in discouraging the people willing to pay for getting the virus shots. For these people, private companies can offer a smooth immunisation facility. However, given the higher demand of the virus shots, the import of coronavirus vaccines by private firms appears to be a difficult proposition at present. Many advanced countries have confronted vaccine deficit situation despite producing them on a round-the-clock basis. As nations across the globe are in an urgent need to inoculate their masses as early as possible, they are less likely to grant foreign firms to buy a large amount of such crucial vaccines for merchandising purposes.

When our authority decided to allow the private firms to play their part in procuring vaccines, the government might have hoped that the private firms could set up their close links with international manufacturers and mobilise resources to procure the COVID jabs quickly and thus be a great help to the government's vaccination drive. But once these companies become successful in importing the vaccines, our authority should constantly be cautious and monitor these companies against taking unnecessary advantage. Since they have been permitted to make a profit of not more than 10 per cent, the authority would do good if they remain vigilant against private firms that tempt to turn this opportunity into raking fast bucks from the desperate citizens, who are ready to spend money in return for the life-saving vaccines.