China will donate 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Nepal: President Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday announced a donation of one million doses of Covid-19 vaccines for Nepal, which is facing a severe shortage of jabs for providing the second shots to more than one million people.
Xi announced the provision of the vaccines as grant assistance during a phone conversation with his Nepalese counterpart Bidya Devi Bhandari, according to a statement from Nepal’s foreign ministry. China had provided 800,000 doses of Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine to Nepal in March.
The Chinese assistance comes at a time when Nepal is grappling with a second wave of Coronavirus infections, with 6,677 new cases reported since Tuesday to take the national tally to 535,525. The country’s death toll is nearly 6,900.
Xi acknowledged the difficulties Nepal has been facing due to the second wave of the pandemic and expressed his government’s full support for the fight against Covid-19, the statement said.
“During the conversation, the Chinese President announced that China will provide additional 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Nepal as grant assistance. President Xi also assured that Nepal will remain on a priority of China in vaccine support and cooperation,” the statement added.
Bhandari’s conversation with Xi came days after she wrote a letter to her Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind to take initiatives to ensure vaccines for Nepal, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Nepal had been looking for commercial supplies from Serum Institute of India (SII) and vaccines from the WHO-backed COVAX facility to meet most of its needs for plans to inoculate more than 70% of the population of some 30 million. However, Nepal has struggled to procure vaccines since India restricted exports in late March to cope with its own devastating second wave of infections.
A priority for Nepal has been the supply of two million doses of the Covishield vaccine under a commercial contract finalised with SII earlier this year. SII has so far supplied one million doses and the remainder has been held up despite Nepal making 80% of the payment in advance, Nepalese officials have said.
India also provided 1.1 million doses of Covishield as grant assistance in January and March and Nepal received another 348,000 doses of Covishield from COVAX in March.
Some 1.3 million people above the age of 65 were given the first shot between March 7 and 15, and Nepalese officials have said the process of giving them the second shot has already been delayed by more than a week in view of original plans for the booster shot to be given eight weeks after the first jab.
COVAX recently informed the Nepal government that further supplies of Covishield from the facility are unlikely before next year, according to media reports.