News Digest – National Security & Climate Change (March 11 – March 17, 2021)

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According to the health ministry, as of March 17, Nepal’s COVID-19 tally stands at 275,424 and the death tally has reached 3,014. There are 915 active cases of infection in the country while 271,495 people have made a recovery.

The government of Nepal launched the second phase of the COVID-19 vaccination drive on March 7 for citizens over the age of 65. Authorities say that the number of individuals above the age of 65 seeking to get vaccinated has been encouraging and surpassed previous expectations. According to reports, the second phase has seen an overwhelming response in comparison to the first phase. Factors such as vaccine hesitancy and rumors surrounding the efficacy of the vaccines and its effects, lack of access to vaccination centers, failure to communicate information about the vaccination campaign, etc. hindered the efforts to meet the targeted number of the population in the first phase.

According to reports, over 80% of people who lost their lives to the virus had preexisting conditions but the surviving community with the preexisting conditions are yet to be prioritized in the vaccination campaign. Nepal recently launched the second phase of its inoculation drive targeted at vaccinating the population over 65 years of age while the first phase was aimed at vaccinating frontline workers. However, the population of individuals with multiple preexisting conditions are yet to be included in the campaign despite being a highly vulnerable group.

According to officials, the government of Nepal will continue the vaccination drive using the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company, as no adverse impacts of the vaccine has been recorded in the country so far. The statement comes amidst news of European countries suspending the administration of the particular vaccine after cases of vaccine recipients developing blood clots.

The government of Nepal has had to face various impediments in its vaccination drive. The challenge to procure adequate number of vaccines so as to continue vaccinating citizens has emerged as a major challenge. The decision to allow private companies to import vaccines came on March 14, following which public health experts have urged that the government should continue its efforts to vaccinate citizens for free as a large part of the country’s population will not be able to buy vaccines.

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