It has proven that countries are cooperating with one another at the regional level in the fight against the virus

The government is all set to launch its anti-COV- ID-19 vaccination programme across the country from tomorrow, six days after India-donated one million Covishield doses arrived in the country. The Ministry of Health and Population announced the other day that the ministry was planning to give the Oxford-AstraZeneca-developed vaccine and manufactured by Serum Institute of India to a total of 430,000 people under the first phase. The ministry said that the programme would be launched from 62 major hospitals in seven provinces and 120 immunisation centres. Under the first phase, the Covishield shots will be given to frontline healthcare workers, waste management workers, ambulance drivers and helpers, those deployed in the management of COV- ID-19 vaccination campaign, female community health volunteers, those involved in the management of bodies of COVID-19, those working in the international entry points, elderly in care homes and their caretakers, jailbirds, security personnel working in jails and security personnel deployed at the vaccination centres. The ministry also said 300 more inoculation centres would be administering the vaccine shots by January 31. It is expected that the vaccination drive will last for 10 days. Preparations to administer the vaccines to the target groups have already been completed.

It may be recalled that the Department of Drug Administration had permitted the emergency use of Covishield against virus infection in Nepal. Earlier, the government had also issued an ordinance allowing for the emergency use of a vaccine developed in other countries and approved by them for emergency use.

The Covishield vaccine course consists of two doses of 0.5 ml each and will be administered intramuscular. The second dose of the vaccine should be given to the first recipient within four to six weeks of the first dose. The ministry has said another shipment of the same amount of vaccines will arrive well before the start of the second dose. The ministry has asked the people to take part in the programme without any fear as the vaccine will have only mild side effects.

Nepali people are receiving the first lot of the vaccines almost one year after the first case of COVID-19 was detected in February last year. The vaccines are being launched in Nepal immediately after the developed countries found the cure for it, and they were manufactured in India, which also started the vaccination drive on January 16, two weeks ahead of Nepal. The way the vaccination drive is being launched in Nepal and elsewhere, it has proven that countries are cooperating with one another at the regional level in the fight against the deadly virus that has not only claimed the lives of thousands of people, but has also brought economic activities to a grinding halt. As we know that the one million vaccine doses donated by India are not adequate to meet our needs, the government should quickly start procuring the required quantity of the vaccines to inoculate around 70 per cent of our population, as announced earlier by the government. As the Finance Ministry has assured to provide funds for the vaccines, the concerned ministry should initiate the procurement process without delay.

Dry Manang

Farmers in Manang district in north-central Nepal are worried by the delay in snowfall this year.

Snow normally begins to fall by mid-November in this harsh terrain, but it has been erratic for some years. Manang is a rain shadow area and receives the least amount of rainfall among the districts of Nepal as it lies to the north of the Himalayas, which blocks the moisture-laden monsoon winds. Thus, timely snowfall is the only way to cultivate crops and fruits, such as wheat, buckwheat, potatoes and apples, which also determines their quality. The cultivation of crops and fruits apart, lack of snow could also affect the production of the medicinal herb, yarsagumba, a major source of income of the locals.

The delay in snowfall in Manang and elsewhere could be reason for greater anxiety and must be understood why it is happening. Climate change could be a factor, as the Himalayan peaks, namely Annapurna I, II, III and IV, as well as Gangapurna and Lamjung located here, are dark and dry without snow cover even at this time of the year. All this calls for research involving scientists so as to identify what can be done to save the Himalayas and the livelihood of the local people.