The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a loan of $165 million for the Nepal government to purchase safe and effective vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The project will support the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan in Nepal by procuring an estimated 15.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which will benefit about 6.8 million Nepalis.

"ADB's support will help the government of Nepal procure much-needed COV- ID-19 vaccines to protect its citizens from the further spread of this disease," said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. "It is essential that COVID-19 vaccines are quickly purchased and administered to help get the economy back on track by enabling the restoration of livelihoods and economic activities, as well as the resumption of educational and human development pursuits."

The project is financed by ADB's $9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility launched in December 2020 to offer rapid and equitable vaccine-related support to ADB developing member countries. Vaccines eligible for financing must meet at least one of the APVAX eligibility criteria: The vaccine has been selected for procurement through the COV- ID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) mechanism; the vaccine has been prequalified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) or WHO emergency use listing; or the vaccine has received regular or emergency licensure or authorisation by a stringent regulatory authority.

In addition to this project, ADB's ongoing technical assistance grants will support the strengthening of the vaccine delivery system, communication, and community engagement to raise awareness on the risks of COVID-19 and the benefits of vaccination. The government is mobilising female community health volunteers to disseminate information among marginalized communities to raise awareness.

At least one female health worker or volunteer will support the effort in every vaccination site or outreach centre.

ADB is closely collaborating with other partners, like World Bank, COVAX, WHO, and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in supporting the government in its efforts to vaccinate its people as soon as possible.

The project will complement the government's broader response through its $1.2 billion National Relief Programme, which consists of social protection, health care, and economic relief measures. In May last year, ADB provided support to the programme through a $250 million concessional loan.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.

Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members - 49 from the region.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 23 2021, of The Himalayan Times.