The world has heaved a sigh of relief as the battle against COVID-19 pandemic has made important breakthrough with the development of vaccines against the deadly viral contagion. In a very positive development, some countries have already started inoculating its citizens against the virus that has taken its huge toll on human life and health. Britain was the first country to administer the vaccine against COVID-19 in early December and since then, dozens of nations around the world have rolled out the vaccines and inoculated its citizens. As countries around the world are rushing to acquire and administer the most sought-after inoculation, they are also faced with pressing issues of financial capabilities and establishing crucial cold storage facilities. As some vaccines demand cold storage with very high refrigerating capacity, making arrangement of this infrastructure has emerged as a matter of headache just like the challenge of availing the shots.
In this scenario, companies that have developed vaccines requiring cold storage of relatively lower refrigerating capacity are bound to come popular and more demanding. There have been wider voices that there should be a universal policy in place that ensures access to this crucial vaccine to all the countries. The priority should be for those countries that have been worst affected and witnessed highest fatalities. But the concerns of under-developed countries should also be heard as they lack financial capacity to purchase vaccines and establishing chilling storage. Companies that have developed vaccines look after business profits, more apparent from the fact that the countries that produced the vaccines were not the first ones to administer them. This sort of commercial prominence should not grossly ignore the humanitarian side of this serious global public health issue.
To talk about Nepal, the country has prepared the modality of administering the COVID-19 vaccines but the vaccines are yet to be available. When the shots will arrive, through the WHO’s Covax scheme and through purchase, they will be administered abiding by the fixed modality. As per the modality, all the health workers working in government as well as private hospitals who are at high risk of getting infected will fall in the first priority. Frontline workers including the staff of the health institutions, security personnel and women community health volunteers will be in the first priority of COVID-19 inoculation.
Health Ministry officials have said that the government plans to vaccinate 3 per cent population working in the health facilities and the social sector in the first phase. In the second phase, the plan is to inoculate 17 per cent of the population including the senior citizens and other high risk group. Under the aegis of the WHO, Covax shots are planned to be given to participating countries free of cost but the supplies are yet to roll out. This scheme is expected to cover 20 per cent of the population. If Covax shots take longer to arrive, the government should also go for faster approach of purchase and inoculation. For that, the eye is on the Serum Institute of India, manufacturer of the COVID-19 vaccine Covishield developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The Department of Drug Administration (DDA) has authorised the use of Serum shots for emergency use in Nepal.