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Nepal jab drive to restart after China shots arrive

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The vials of Covid-19 vaccines produced by (from left to right) Oxford-AstraZeneca (India’s Covishield), Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE,Sputnik V and Sinopharm Group Co Ltd. STR/AFP

Nepal jab drive to restart after China shots arrive

Nepal was set to restart Covid-19 inoculations after receiving a donation of doses from China, resuming a campaign that was put on hold because India slowed vaccine exports.

India and China have set out to make vaccines for the rest of the world during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly among poorer countries seeking more affordable shots.

Nepal began vaccinations in January after receiving one million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from neighbouring India. Another 348,000 from the World Health Organisation-backed Covax scheme arrived last month.

But only half of a follow-up order of two million shots from India has been delivered so far, and none have been administered since mid-March.

The health ministry on March 30 said the drive would resume after 800,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine arrived the day before.

Health ministry spokesman Jageshwor Gautam said: “It will be given after a decision is made on which population bracket we will target.”

Beijing “provided vaccine assistance to Nepal as a priority”, Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi wrote in local English daily Republica on March 30.

The donation “demonstrates the great importance the Chinese side attaches to China-Nepal friendship”, she said.

India is home to the world’s biggest vaccine maker, while China also has a large production capacity.

In Sri Lanka, India has supplied half a million vaccines as a donation, another half a million as a commercial purchase, with a further 264,000 delivered via Covax.

Beijing was also due to deliver 600,000 vaccines on March 31 to administer to Chinese nationals living in the country.

In the Maldives, India has gifted 100,000 doses, while another 100,000 was purchased by Indian manufacturer the Serum Institute of India with 12,000 more shots via COVAX.

Beijing was due to deliver 100,000 doses on March 30 after donating an earlier 100,000.

“China is . . . gifting double the amount of vaccine doses India had given the Maldives,” said Sri Lanka’s former high commissioner to Delhi, Austin Fernando. “China is trying to show that . . . they are more generous.”

More than 1.7 million Nepalis have received their first AstraZeneca jabs so far. Authorities were forced to save doses for the second round after deliveries slowed from India.

Nepal, home to 28 million people, has recorded more than 275,000 coronavirus infections and over 3,000 deaths so far.

New infections have slowed in recent months in the Himalayan nation, with just over 100 cases on average a day and 11 deaths in the last 10 days.

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