By Mahima Devkota, Kathmandu, June 2: As many as 1.35 million people who received their first jabs of anti COVID vaccine from 7-15 March are unlikely to receive their second dose in a short stretch.
Despite the decision to widen the gap between first and second dose for 12-16 weeks, which is ideally on June 6, no pragmatic solution besides waiting for the positive reply from concerned benefactors have been derived so far.
According to Prof. Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, former spokesperson of the ministry of Health and Populaiton and curretly Chief Executive Officer of the Unified Central Hospital for COVID-19 or the Bir Hospital, 14 lakhs elderlies received their first Covidshield vaccine in second phase campaign, March 7-15. However, only around 50,000 people received their second jabs for lack of vaccination in April. As a result, 13,50,000 people including those aged above 65 are still to receive their second jabs.
4,38,000 people, listed as priority, have received both their first and second jabs, he added.
Dr. Jhalak Gautam, chief of child health and immunisation section, Family Welfare Division, the government doesn't have enough stock of vaccines to conduct the campaign.
Dr. Gautam said, “We don't have a single dose left in our central storage in Teku. The vaccines were distributed among districts for the vaccination campaign.”
Nepal has only about a lakh doses of Covishield and 50,000 doses of Vero Cell, informed Dr. Gautam, adding that the government is striving to procure vaccines. Diplomatic efforts from high levels are being mobilised as well, he added.
Despite all the extended efforts, an immediate solution for second dose of Covidshield vaccine seems unlikely.
Reports say the first dose gives only 33 percent safety from the deadly novel coronavirus.
A report of the Public Health, England, read first dose is only 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2 three weeks after the dose is taken, whereas they are 50% effective against B.1.1.7.
On the question about whether delay for the vaccination can risk the elderlies of chances of infection, Dr. Gautam said that both doses of vaccination provides 60 percent safety and it also reduces the chances of having severities and even fatalities. Only one dose provides 33 percent of safety against the SARS-CoV-2.
Other substitute vaccines for second dose
Dr. Gautam said that both doses need to be of the same company, so one cannot switch for another vaccine in between doses.
Therefore, there are no other alternatives for second dose vaccination of Covidshield, he added.
Restart of the vaccination cycle
Dr. Gautam said that rather than opting for another vaccination cycle, which is of two doses of the same vaccine, it is better to wait for Covidshield vaccine to arrive in the country.
He further clarified that no such incidents have been recorded so far and no research have been conducted in line with restarting vaccination cycle, he added.
Nepal launched the vaccination drive on January 27 on the priority basis, in which, 438,000 people received their first jabs. However, only 370,000 received their second jabs.