Nepal is the second country globally to have completed agreements with GAVI to procure four million doses of Moderna vaccines, financed by the World Bank, through the COVAX cost-share option.

This will diversify and strengthen the country's COV- ID-19 vaccine portfolio.

"Nepal is an early mover in utilising the COVAX cost-share scheme, and I am pleased to note that we have finalised an arrangement, despite very challenging circumstances, to bring safe and highly effective vaccines to Nepal," said Umesh Shrestha, minister of state for health and population.

"Moderna vaccines have helped expand options for vaccinating Nepalis above 12 years of age and fast-track Nepal's progress towards a safer post-COVID world."

Delivery of these vaccines is expected to start by March 2022 and will contribute to Nepal's goal to vaccinate at least 72 per cent of its population, as well as children 12 to 17 years of age for whom the Moderna vaccine is deemed safe and effective.

"We are honoured to support the people and government of Nepal, along with our development partners, by financing the purchase of safe and effective vaccines through COVAX facility," said Faris Hadad-Zervos, World Bank country director for Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka. "This is a key element of our overall COVID response by helping to meet emergency health needs and strengthening healthcare and vaccine delivery system."

The World Bank has made available $104 million to support the Nepal government's health response to the pandemic, with $67.5 million earmarked to purchase and deploy COVID-19 vaccines. Last month, 1,000 oxygen concentrators were brought in through the project while seven oxygen generation plants are being established, one in each province. These will help strengthen health preparedness in the event of future waves of the pandemic.

"We commend the government of Nepal for being the first country in South Asia, and one of first in the world, to join and tap into the COVAX costshare option," said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank vice-president for South Asia. "World Bank is committed to continuing support to Nepal's COVID- 19 vaccination programme, which is critical to helping people and economy of Nepal build back better from this unprecedented crisis."

The World Bank supports countries' COVID-19 vaccine implementation plans. Countries make choices based on their specific needs and the WHO's recommended policy and guidelines on vaccines, therapeutics, and other tools they adopt.

As the threshold for eligibility for IBRD/IDA resources in vaccine purchase, the World Bank accepts as eligible for inclusion in the project COV- ID-19 vaccines that firstly have received regular or emergency licensure or authorisation from at least one of the stringent regulatory authorities (SRAs) identified by World Health Organisation (WHO) for vaccines procured and/or supplied under the COVAX Facility, as may be amended from time to time by WHO; or secondly have received WHO Prequalification or WHO Emergency Use Listing.

The Moderna vaccine meets these criteria.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 14 2021, of The Himalayan Times.