As the risk of a new surge in Covid-19 cases grows, the Ministry of Health and Population has been planning to launch a nationwide drive to administer booster shots.
Officials hope that administration of the booster shots will help to lessen seriousness and deaths from the possible new surge of the virus.
“We have directed all agencies concerned to launch a nationwide drive to administer booster shots,” said Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson at the Health Ministry. “Booster drive will start once the typhoid vaccination campaign concludes.”
With the surge in Covid-19 cases in several states of India including in New Delhi of late, concerns have been growing in Nepal due to the proximity factor and cross-border movement of people between Nepal and India.
Nepal shares a long open border with its southern neighbour. As the earlier iterations of the pandemic have shown, the crest and trough of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nepal have been directly proportional to those in India.
Although the Health Ministry has decided to administer booster shots to those all, who were administered with a second dose of vaccine three months ago, uptake of the booster shots has not increased.
So far, 2,474,829 people or around 10 percent of the total population have been administered with the booster shots.
“We have reached a conclusion that uptake of vaccine doses including the first and second, and booster shots will not increase, so we have decided to launch a vaccination programme as a campaign,” said Sagar Dahal, chief of the National Immunisation Programme. “We have sufficient doses of vaccine in stock and have decided that an additional dose is needed to boost the immunity level of those who had taken their second doses three months ago.”
Local units are free to start the booster drive in their jurisdictions at the earliest, if they have completed the vaccination drive against typhoid, according to Dahal.
The District Health Office, Kathmandu said that preparations are underway to launch a booster drive on 24 and 24 April in all local units of the district. District Health Office, Lalitpur said that it has been preparing to launch a three-day drive on April 25, 26 and 27.
“We will extend the drive if we are unable to use up the allocated vaccine doses within the two days on April 24 and 25,” said Basanta Adhikari, chief of the Health Office. “We believe that many people have already taken booster shots in Kathmandu, so there will not be a huge crowd like in the past.”
The Health Office Lalitpur said that it has brought 25,000 moderna vaccines from the Health Ministry to administer as booster shots.
“All people, above 18 years old, who took the second dose of the vaccine three months ago are eligible for booster shots,”said Satish Bista, chief of the District Health Office, Lalitpur. “We will continue the programme if there is a need for the service.”
With the decline in the infection rate of late, uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine has declined and even educated people have not shown interest to take booster shots.
On Tuesday, 10 people tested positive for the coronavirus.
No death has been recorded from Covid-19 infection since March 22.
Public health experts say that the only effective thing authorities could do to lessen the loss from the Covid-19 infection is ramping up vaccination.
“We have sufficient doses in stock and hundreds of thousands of people are yet to take the booster shots,” Dr Biraj Karmacharya, an epidemiologist. “Authorities concerned should try to administer the jab at the earliest, so that people will gain immunity before a new wave hits the country.”
As preparations for local elections are already in full swing with political parties busying themselves in candidates selection and campaigning, among other things, this could further push Covid-19 cases in the country, experts fear.
The Health Ministry said that 83.3 percent of the population above 18 years old have been fully immunised with Covid-19 vaccines.
So far the country has received 53,381, 570 doses of Covid vaccines—AstraZeneca, Vero Cell, Moderna, Sinovac-CoronaVac, Janssen (single dose) and Pfizer-BioNtech.
Arjun Poudel is a health reporter for The Kathmandu Post. Before joining the Post, he worked for Sagarmatha Television, Naya Patrika, Republica and The Himalayan Times.