China fumes after Nepal's media exposes Sinopharm vaccine procurement price
China, which is reportedly selling Nepal vaccines against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) at a price of $10 per dose, conveyed its displeasure with Kathmandu after some regional media publications disclosed the procurement price, reported news agency ANI on Sunday morning. It was earlier reported that Nepal had had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with the makers of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in order to gain access to doses amid questions about the legality of such an undertaking.
Although a non-disclosure agreement was reportedly in place, an article published by The Kathmandu Post revealed the price of the Sinopharm vaccine dose that China was selling to Nepal to help the Himalayan nation tackle the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The report mentioned that Nepal was purchasing four million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine at an estimated cost of $10 or around ₹741 per dose. Although the report acknowledged that the final price is yet to be confirmed given the nature of the agreement, it could be around $10 per dose.
After the article was published, multiple Chinese officials visibly communicated their displeasure with Nepal, reported ANI. Sinopharm had communicated its displeasure at the publicisation of vaccine procurement by the government of Nepal, officials told The Kathmandu Post. The Chinese embassy in Kathmandu had also reminded Nepal's ministry of foreign affairs of the nature of the deal, according to the officials.
Nepal's officials, too, expressed concern over the media report. "The way the media quoted the price of the vaccine and other logistical issues were concerning because these are very sensitive issues," Dr Krishna Prasad Paudel, spokesperson for the health ministry, was quoted as saying.
The Kathmandu Post backed its reportage, citing confirmation from two ministers and two government secretaries who were present at the cabinet meeting where the decision to procure four million vaccines from China was taken.
The development comes as an awkward snag in diplomatic relations between the countries. Nepal has been desperately looking for alternate sources of vaccines after India temporarily halted the export of jabs in late March to cope with a devastating second wave. It was only after China agreed to sell its Sinopharm vaccines that Kathmandu saw a way to vaccinate the million-odd people who received the first dose of Covishield and were waiting for their second dose after the passage of more than two months. However, China's condition was that the imposition of a non-disclosure agreement, an unusual predicament for Nepal as the country's laws don’t have a provision for non-disclosure agreements in public procurement, according to reports.
(With inputs from agencies)