Digital Desk, Kathmandu. Nepal is struggling to vaccinate its target population against the virus. The threat of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant is increasing across the country.
Even though the South Asian country has been getting a steady supply of vaccines in recent months, it still lacks sufficient storage capacity and necessary human resources to store them and allow overpopulation, Xinhua news agency quoted officials as saying. Struggling to get vaccinated. So far, 32.9 percent of Nepal’s estimated 30 million population have been fully vaccinated, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.
Sher Bahadur Pun, chief medical officer of the Sukarraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Kathmandu, told Xinhua that vaccination levels are still low amid the Omicron threat. “I have found that some older people have not been vaccinated because of the lack of queues at vaccination centres. Some people are still not aware of the importance of vaccines against the pandemic. Nepalese health officials acknowledge that vaccination rates are still low and are trying to increase coverage.
Vivek Kumar Lal, director of the Department of Family Welfare, said, “The World Health Organization has advised us to increase the share of fully immunized to 40 per cent of the total population by December and we are approaching that level.” Officials said Nepal has so far identified three omicron cases and despite the potential threat, the Himalayan nation may not double or triple the vaccination rate anytime soon.
Sagar Dahal, head of the country’s national immunization programme, said, “We are immunizing about 250,000 people daily. Sometimes we have vaccinated 350,000 people in the recent past. We vaccinated a maximum of 300,000 people in a day. He said the government was making efforts to expand the vaccination campaign that started in late January. But we are facing difficulty in expanding the vaccination campaign due to lack of trained manpower and logistics, it also takes time to raise public awareness and create momentum for the campaign.
“Due to delay in supply of syringes, vaccination campaign has been affected in some districts,” Lal said. On Thursday (December 23), we received a supply of five million syringes, which would be enough for us to run the vaccination campaign for a few weeks. An additional 60 million are also in the pipeline. Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Nepal has recorded a total of 827,271 COVID cases and 11,585 deaths. In recent months, the country has been reporting mostly 200-300 new daily cases and new deaths mostly in single-digit numbers.
Contrary to those difficult times, Nepal has a sufficient supply of vaccines for now, and the government aims to vaccinate all the population by mid-April next year. As of Sunday, the country has received 39.2 million doses of vaccines, and an additional 20 million will be supplied by February next year, according to the health ministry. We have a stockpile of about 9 million vaccine doses and the storage facilities are already spread out, Dahl said. According to the official, the existing storage capacity can only accommodate an additional 20 million vaccines. “That’s why we have asked companies that are willing to supply additional vaccines to Nepal to delay shipments until February,” he said.