KATHMANDU: Nepal was set to restart COVID-19 inoculations after receiving a donation of doses from China, resuming a campaign that was put on hold because India slowed vaccine exports.
India and China have sought to use vaccine diplomacy to extend influence around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among poorer countries seeking cheaper shots.
Nepal began vaccinations in January after receiving one million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from neighbouring India. Another 348,000 from the World Health Organization-backed Covax scheme arrived in March.
But only half of a follow-up order of 2 million shots from India has been delivered so far, and none have been administered since mid-March.
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But the health ministry said Tuesday (Mar 30) that the drive would resume after 800,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine arrived on Monday.
“It will be given after a decision is made on which population bracket we will target,” health ministry spokesman Jageshwor Gautam told AFP.
Beijing “provided vaccine assistance to Nepal as a priority”, Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi wrote in local English daily Republica on Tuesday.
The donation “demonstrates the great importance the Chinese side attaches to China-Nepal friendship”, she said.
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India is home to the world’s biggest vaccine maker, while China also has a large production capacity.
More than 1.7 million Nepalis have received their first AstraZeneca jabs so far. Authorities were forced to save doses for the second round after deliveries slowed from India.
Nepal, home to 28 million people, has recorded more than 275,000 coronavirus infections and more than 3,000 deaths so far.
New infections have slowed in recent months in the Himalayan nation, with just over 100 cases on average a day and 11 deaths in the last 10 days.
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