After several African countries declined offers from developed countries to dump COVID vaccines with short shelf life upon them, Nepal has followed suit by rejecting an offer from Poland to donate nine million doses of vaccines.

Health Secretary Roshan Pokharel told THT that his ministry had politely declined the offer of the Polish government. "We declined the offer since the Astra- Zeneca vaccine has a shelf life of two months only," he said, adding that the government would, however, accept Johnson & Johnson's Jansen vaccine since it had a shelf life of two years.

The health secretary also declined to quantify the Polish offer on the grounds that he didn't have the numbers on hand.

However, a senior health ministry official said the offer was for nine million vaccines, majority of which were from AstraZeneca.

The development comes in the wake of several under-developed countries destroying millions of doses of vaccines donated by developed countries after expiry of their shelf life.

Minister of Health and Population Birodh Khatiwada told THT that in the past the government accepted COVID vaccines with expiry date of one or two months and used them all, but now it did not want to receive any vaccine with short shelf life.

Assistant Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population Samir Kumar Adhikari said that the ministry was conscious of not accepting vaccines with short shelf life. As of today, the government has received/imported around 40,003,000 COVID vaccines, of which 30,000,000 jabs have already been provided to the public. Adhikari said his ministry was yet to receive reports of some vaccines that had been given to the public. The government has at least 8,000,000 jabs in its storage facilities, he added.

Adhikari said the government was consciously seeking vaccines with long shelf life so that it would not have to destroy any vaccine. He said wastage of up to 10 per cent vaccines of any type was possible, but the government was working with a strategy to limit this wastage below one per cent. "But as we take our inoculation drive to remote places, percentage of wastage is likely to increase," he added.

Adhikari said the government was trying to meet the target of inoculating half a million people a day. The government is able to vaccinate only 300,000 people a day, the minister said.

A version of this article appears in the print on January 20, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.