The Association of International NGOs in Nepal (AIN) today appealed to the international community, underscoring the urgency of supplying COVID-19 vaccines to Nepal.

"Most of the developed countries have inoculated a significant portion of their populations and have extra reserves of the vaccines. But countries like Nepal are facing an acute shortage of vaccines," said the appeal signed by AIN Chairperson Dr. Sushil Koirala. Currently, Nepal is battling the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and there are fears about a third wave.

"Nepal's cases have reached 0.65 million and the number of deaths has crossed 9,000. This data is a stark reminder that Nepal urgently needs COVID-19 vaccines to save lives of its citizens, bring the pandemic under control and ease the burden on the public health system if a third wave hits the country," the AIN appeal noted.

It further said it is important to ensure that equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines for all and the principal of equity must be duly followed while distributing COVID-19 vaccines so that no one is excluded from getting the life-saving jabs. "This is only possible through the COVAX facility along with support from vaccine-producing countries. The only way to equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is through effective diplomacy and transparent procurement and distribution processes," read the appeal letter.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP), around 9 percent of Nepal's population have received the first doses and among them only 3 percent have received second doses. "More than 1.4 million people who received first doses of Covishield (Oxford AstraZeneca) vaccines in mid-March 2021 are still unable to get second doses even 12 weeks after receiving the first shots," AIN said.

"AIN appeals for an urgent support from the international community to address the pandemic and support the elderly and most vulnerable people to have access to the second dose of AstraZeneca vaccines. This is our humble appeal to all G7 and other developed countries and the EU to donate AstraZeneca vaccines from their stockpile to Nepal to mitigate the humanitarian crisis," the appeal further said. "Thus it is important either they are used, swapped or shared with countries like Nepal on time to ensure they don't go waste."

Nepal has started receiving shipments of 4 million of VeroCellvaccine it procured from China. However, there is a huge gap between the existing demand and supply, AIN said, calling on the Government of Nepal to do all it can to ensure prompt procurement and supply of adequate COVID-19 vaccines. "We further request the Government of Nepal to give priority to the most vulnerable population, including senior citizens, people with disability, living with chronic diseases and those living with immunocompromised conditions unless contraindicated," AIN said.