Younten Tshedup  

Following a request placed by the Nepalese government seeking vaccine support from Bhutan, officials from the foreign ministry said that the government was considering sending excess AstraZeneca vaccine to Nepal.

However, before finalising any decision, the ministry officials said that the government must first get export approval from donor countries, including Denmark, Croatia, and the AstraZeneca company.

Once the donor countries agree to the export conditions, the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA) in Bhutan will also have to approve the export of the vaccine as per the existing protocol.

An official said that the government was considering Nepal’s request as Bhutan had surplus vaccines after inoculating more than 90 percent of the eligible population in the country.

“We’ve vaccinated most of our people with both the doses now. It will be the right thing to do if we can give the excess vaccines to other countries where the vaccine is in short supply,” said the official. “Also, because the vaccines are expiring soon, we would not want to waste it.”

According to a report by The Kathmandu Post, Nepal has written a ‘diplomatic note’ to Bhutan seeking 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine.

A senior Nepali official in Kathmandu and Nepali diplomat based in New Delhi confirmed that the request was sent to Bhutan through the Nepali embassy in Delhi. “Nepal has communicated to Bhutan as to whether the surplus doses could be supplied to us on condition that we would return when we have the vaccine or any other support we could extend.”

Vaccine quantity to be exported, however, has not been finalised yet.

Health officials did not share the quantity of remaining AstraZeneca vaccines in the country and its expiry dates.

Kuensel learnt that the country has over 400,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine secured recently through donation for the second round of mass vaccination. This also includes excess vaccines from the first round.

The country used some 25,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine during the week-long second vaccination campaign.

Officials said that the adult population (18 years and above) who are now eligible to receive the vaccine are recommended AstraZeneca vaccine.

“We are now giving AstraZeneca vaccine for adults as we have stopped using the Moderna vaccine to give it to children between 12 and 17 years,” said a health worker.

Should Bhutan supply the vaccines, Nepal plans to use it for its elderly population. Around 1.4 million (M) people aged 65 and above in Nepal have received their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Nepalese government is also expecting some 1.6M AstraZeneca doses from Japan.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk