Availability apart, rumours about the efficacy of the vaccines could thwart the govt's efforts to vaccinate the targeted population

The World Bank's additional funding of $75 million – on top of the $29 million made available last year for the coronavirus project – for the purchase, supply and distribution of safe and effective COV- ID-19 vaccines should go a long way in the government's effort to inoculate 72 per cent of its population.

Nepal began its mass vaccination drive on January 27, making it one of the first countries in the region to do so, after India donated 1 million doses of Covishield vaccines to Nepal. The first phase included frontline health workers, security personnel involved in the management of COVID-19 related deaths, journalists, bankers and civil servants. In March, Nepal received vaccines from other sources as well, allowing it to launch its second phase of the vaccination programme. On March 7, Nepal launched its second phase of the vaccination programme for those aged above 65 years with the first COVAX shipment of 348,000 doses of AstraZeneca 'Covishield' vaccines. And on March 29, a chartered flight of Nepal Airlines Corporation flew in 800,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine donated by China.

Thus for now, there seems to be no shortage of vaccines or funds to carry out the government's vaccination programmes.

However, to vaccinate 72 per cent of the population as targeted, Nepal must gird up its loins to procure or get the vaccines from whatever source possible. Since each person must be inoculated twice, there is a need for at least 420 million doses to cover the targeted population.

But with the second and even third waves of the coronavirus sweeping across countries, vaccines are getting scarcer to source even if one has the resources to pay for them. Thus, Nepal must opt for vaccine diplomacy to procure the necessary vaccines and ship them to the country. A shortage of vaccines had already forced the government to raise the age bracket from 55 years to 65 years during the second phase of the vaccination drive. Following a surge in coronavirus cases in India in recent weeks, the Indian government had put a ban on vaccine export although the Nepal government was trying to purchase 2 million doses from there. Hopefully, the remaining lot of the 2.25 million doses committed under the WHO's CO- VAX initiative will arrive here by May as scheduled.

Availability apart, rumours about the efficacy of the vaccines could thwart the government's efforts to vaccinate the targeted population. Word travels fast on the social media, and questions tend to be raised when those vaccinated develop side-effects, such as a fever or a cough. Thus, the government must allay such fears of the public through the help of the media, as people panic over the spread of new variants of the coronavirus. The people must also be told that the vaccination is not a cure for the coronavirus, and that they will need to continue with the prescribed public health measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. To be on the safe side, measures such as wearing a mask, hand hygiene and physical distancing must be adhered to even after the vaccination.

Above all, there must be strict policing of the border with India to prevent a similar surge in coronavirus cases in Nepal.

Implement the deal

Waste management has been a perennial problem for all the municipalities in the Kathmandu Valley, where more than 4 million people reside and produce around 1,000 metric tons of garbage every day. But the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC), the sole authority for taking care of the refuse being produced in the valley, quite often faces obstructions from the locals at the Sisdole Landfill Site, where the KMC has been dumping it for the last 13 years.

This time around, the teachers and the locals of the area created obstruction to the transportation of the waste, urging the KMC to fulfil their demands. As per the seven-pointdeal reached between the locals and teachers, the KMC will provide Rs 30 million every year for the overall development of the affected area and also provide, among others, a fund for 46 teachers in the community schools and an ambulance to Dhunibesi Municipality. While the deal reached between the KMC and the locals is a welcome move, the KMC should also start setting up a recycling plant to produce compost fertiliser from the bio-degradable waste. This will not only help reduce a large amount of waste to be transported to the landfill site but also provide jobs to many.

A version of this article appears in the print on April 5, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.