In the past month, the formulation of possible vaccines for COVID-19 have constantly been in the news. In the first week of November, Pfizer Inc. announced that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine proved to be over 90% effective. Following the news, high ranking officials created a committee and scheduled a meeting on December 10 to discuss the procurement process of the vaccines. The committee’s purpose is to conduct research regarding the vaccines being developed by foreign pharmaceutical companies, while also following the required procedures and process to procure the vaccines. According to reports, the government is considering various countries that are involved in the process of finding a vaccine because while they prioritize the vaccine developed by Pfizer, whether or not the government will turn elsewhere depends on the cost and availability.
According to the World Health Organization, 11 vaccines being developed in different parts of the world including USA, China, Russia, and India are in the third phase of clinical trials. In efforts to speed up the process of procuring enough and effective vaccines, the government of Nepal has sent diplomatic notes to countries including China, India, the US, the UK, Russia, and Australia for early availability in Nepal. During his visit to Nepal in late November, the Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla assured that once in India rolls out COVID-19 vaccines, meeting Nepal’s requirements would be a priority for India.
Over the past few months, the government of Nepal has been in talks with various international companies regarding conducting phase III clinical trials of a possible COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal, but the process was halted as experts were divided on the safety of the vaccine. However, recent reports say that the government has initiated talks to bring “Coronavac”, a vaccine created by China based “Sinovac Biotech”, to conduct clinical trials in Nepal. However, the government is yet to make a decision.
The Communications Minister said that the cabinet meetings in early November had made certain decisions including the government approving a proposal and action-plan for the use of COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal.  Other decisions include the restriction on people arriving from border points into Nepal until December 15, 2020, in efforts to curb the spread of the virus. Furthermore, minister and state ministers will deposit 50% of their wages from mid-October to mid-April in the COVID-19 Prevention, Control, and Treatment Fund set up by the government. The government has also introduced an ordinance authorizing the Department of Drug Administration to register the vaccines of infectious diseases that have been declared as an epidemic or pandemic and to make necessary recommendations to provide import licenses to the firms or institutions to import vaccines as per the ordinance. He also added that COVID-19 patients that meet a certain criteria would be treated for free of cost per the third Amendment Order-2077 BS.
While the news of possible vaccines for COVID-19 is promising and welcomed by all, the whole world is in line to procure and distribute the vaccine to their people, once a vaccine is approved for mass production. Under such circumstances, the government of Nepal must leave no stone unturned in the process of getting sufficient amounts of vaccines as soon as possible. Furthermore, proper execution of the proposal and action plan for the use of COVID-19 vaccine in Nepal should be ensured through transparency, following protocol, and maintaining coordination between agencies involved.