India unlikely to release 2nd lot of Covishield vaccines that Nepal bought before April end

An Air India aeroplane delivers one million doses of Covishield vaccines, in Kathmandu, on Sunday, February 21, 2021. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

Kathmandu, April 8

In the third week of February, Nepal paid the Serum Institute of India Rs 930 million to purchase two million doses of the Covishield Covid-19 vaccines.

On February 21, the company supplied the first half of the purchase to Kathmandu on an Air India aeroplane. Nepal had expected the second half to be supplied within February, but it has not arrived here yet.

Officials involved in the negotiation now say receiving the remaining supply of vaccines before April end is unlikely.

Whereas the Indian Minister of External Affairs, during its weekly press briefing last week, said the New Delhi government had not banned the export of the vaccines, he also maintained its priority, apparently, was the domestic need. A Nepali official says India has communicated this position to Kathmandu officially also, still assuring the vaccines would arrive soon.

“Although it has cited the domestic demand as the major reason for the delay, there could be other reasons also. We have been assured that the vaccines will arrive by the last week of April.”

But, many officials view supplying one million doses to Nepal shall not be a big deal for India if it is really willing. Hence, a negotiator says the delay might be the result of geopolitical competition between India and China as Nepal recently received 800,000 donated Vero Cell vaccines from the northern neighbour.

Meanwhile, the delay in the supply has affected the Ministry of Health’s preparation to purchase additional vaccines from the same company.

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Bhattarai is Onlinekhabar's Assistant Editor.

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