Even amidst a shortage of vaccines against COVID-19 in Nepal, the government has started vaccinating people aged 60-64 across the country since June 8. This has become possible with the support of one million more doses of Vero Cell vaccine from China. The government has ensured that all the eligible people belonging to this age group are receiving the first dose of the vaccine in the nearest vaccination centres fixed by the District COVID-19 Vaccine Coordi-nation and Monitoring Committee. For this, they are required to carry their citizenship certifi-cate or any other government-issued document specifying their age. If anyone cannot produce these documents, they need to bring with them a recommendation letter issued by their respec-tive ward offices.
The number of population of this age-group in the country is around 800,000. The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) has promised to administer the second dose of the vaccine to them on time. Nepal was able to launch the immunisation drive against coronavirus in late Jan-uary this year after India donated one million doses of Covishield shots. But the vaccination campaign could not gain due momentum owing to a scarcity of vaccines. Actually, Nepal was planning to procure vaccines from India. But the southern neighbour was not in a position to export the essential jabs due to the outbreak of a ferocious second wave of the contagion in mid-March there. Considering the fact that the senior citizens were quite vulnerable to COVID-19, the government put them on its top list of priority. About five per cent of the country's total population is estimated to be above 65 years of age.
In line with its policy, the government started administering Covishield vaccine to the citizens above 65 years from March 7. But it had to put off the inoculation drive in a few days because of a scarcity of Covishield vaccine. After some weeks, Nepal also began witnessing a resur-gence of COVID-19 infections and deaths in its second wave. That forced the local administra-tion to impose prohibitory orders in many virus-hit parts of the country, including the Kath-mandu Valley, to prevent further transmission of the contagion. Thus, these elderly citizens have been waiting for the second dose of the vaccine anxiously for the past 12 weeks. Initially, the vaccination drive had created a ray of hope among the elderly people. It needs no mention that the older citizens, and others with underlying health conditions such as diabetes, heart dis-ease, and lung and kidney-related ailments, are at higher risk for COVID-19.
Though the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities in the country seems to have been going down slowly of late, this group of people is still at risk of being infected with this pan-demic. According to MoHP updates, the country reported a remarkable fall in the number of new infections to 3,479 in 24 hours on Sunday. It was the lowest single-day figure in the past 42 days. This is certainly a matter of happiness. However, there are still possibilities of COVID-19 cases resurging once the ongoing restrictions are relaxed or lifted. Therefore, the government has a challenge of vaccinating the senior citizens and other susceptible populace before remov-ing the restrictions.