Nepal seeks Covid-19 vaccines from Bhutan

Nepal has sought Covid-19 vaccines from Bhutan, a country known for one of the most successful Covid-19 vaccination drives, with 90 percent of its 18 plus population having received both doses of vaccines

Aug 01, 2021
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Covid-19 vaccines

Nepal has sought Covid-19 vaccines from Bhutan, a country known for one of the most successful Covid-19 vaccination drives, with 90 percent of its 18 plus population having received both doses of vaccines. Bhutan has a surplus of at least 300,000 Astra-Zeneca Covid-19 vaccines. 

A Nepali embassy official in New Delhi confirmed the request was made to the Bhutanese authorities, reported The Kathmandu Post newspaper. The communication between the countries took place through their respective embassies in New Delhi. 

“Nepal has communicated to Bhutan if the surplus doses could be supplied to us on condition that we would return when we have the vaccine or any other support we could extend,” a Nepali official was quoted as saying by The Kathmandu Post. 

For Bhutan, which doesn’t produce any Covid vaccines and mostly relied on donated vaccines, the request marks the success of its diplomacy at a time when many other countries are still struggling for vaccines. 

The tiny Himalayan Buddhist kingdom of about 800,000 people has earned a reputation for being one of the most efficient countries to roll out vaccination drives. Over 90 percent population above the age of 18 are fully vaccinated in Bhutan. 

Importantly, while many western countries are facing fierce vaccine hesitancy, Bhutan reportedly has no such issue, mostly because of the effective communication strategy adopted by the country’s authorities at every level.  

Nepal, on the other hand, has fully vaccinated just over 6 percent, roughly 1.7 million people, of its total population.

Initially, 1.4 million people aged 65 and above in Nepal were given the first shots of Covishield, the AstraZeneca type vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Since April, following the ban on the export of Covid vaccines by India, they have been waiting for their second dose.

Bhutan, too, has given Covishield as the first dose. However, later it decided to use mix and matching vaccines and used Moderna, donated by the United States, as the second dose for its people. Nonetheless, the country had managed to secure commitment for the Astra Zeneca vaccine. 

Nepal is expecting a draft copy of the memorandum of understanding from Bhutan. A Nepali diplomat in New Delhi said, “Once we agree on the MoU forwarded by Bhutan, then there will be a tripartite agreement between Nepal, Bhutan, and the vaccine-producing company for the delivery of the vaccine.”

(SAM)