Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali raises delay in vaccine delivery with Jaishankar
Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali on Friday raised the delay in delivery of a million doses of made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines during a phone conversation with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar.
Kathmandu was expecting the million doses of Covishield vaccine contracted from the Serum Institute of India (SII) last month, and the delay in delivery has affected the rollout of the second phase of the neighbouring country’s inoculation drive, Nepali officials have said.
In a separate development, Iran too raised the need to expedite the delivery of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin doses that it has already paid for. The issue figured in a set of tweets from the Iranian embassy.
India’s decision to calibrate vaccine exports to cope with a surge in domestic infections and the expansion of its national inoculation programme has affected several countries, including Nepal, the UK, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Nepal signed an agreement with SII for two million doses, half of which were supplied and used for the first phase of the national inoculation drive. The delay in delivering the second million doses has left people waiting for more than six weeks for a second jab, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
According to a readout from Nepal’s foreign ministry, Gyawali requested Jaishankar “for necessary facilitation for the supply of vaccines for Nepal to continue administering the second dose of vaccination for people at highest risk”.
Gyawali also expressed sincere thanks to the Indian government for supporting Nepal in its fight against the pandemic, including through the gift of one million doses of Covishield.
Jaishankar assured Gyawali of “continued support to Nepal in its fight against the pandemic, including through the supply of vaccines”, the readout said.
There was no official word on the conversation from the Indian side.
The people cited above said the second consignment of one million doses is needed to provide the second jab to frontline workers and senior citizens above the age of 65.
The Nepalese side had earlier taken up the matter with SII and the external affairs ministry and sought speedy delivery. Nepal has already made 80% of the payment for the doses and the remaining amount will be paid when the consignment moves out of SII’s facilities in Pune, the people said.
The Iranian embassy said in a tweet on purchase of vaccines from India that Tehran had conveyed its needs to the Indian government and Bharat Biotech. Following this, Iran had received the first consignment of 125,000 doses.
“Given the cordial relations with #India and understanding the rise of new wave of #coronavirus in both countries, we are doing the necessary talks with Indian authorities to kindly expedite sending rest of the consignment which has already been paid for,” the embassy said in another tweet.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday that there was no ban on vaccine exports. “We have always said supply of made-in-India vaccines abroad would continue, taking into account our domestic requirements,” he told a news briefing.