When will Nepal get a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Women in red Saris in Teej in Nepal

Is Nepal getting one of the new vaccines for COVID-19?

It seems highly likely that in the near future a person will need a COVID-19 vaccine before they can travel, get on an international flight or enter a foreign country. This will probably include Nepal. We’ll save the “no to vaccines” approach for other places. The bottom line is I believe that like it or not you’ll need to show proof of vaccination if you want to enter Nepal, or any other country, in the immediate future.

That said, Nepal has done little to actually make any decisions in terms of what vaccines, when, and how to implement them. The most that’s happened is the last few weeks is that the Nepali president (symbolic) made a declaration that Nepal could import vaccines, including those only deemed appropriate for emergency use. Other than that, Nepal insists they have people working on how effective the vaccines are and people working on how to obtain them.

All of the above comes as no surprise to those of us who know the country well. For the past few months Nepal has being fairly chaotic in releasing information about when or if tourist visas will start again. Deadlines pass and rumors circulate on a daily basis. Meanwhile on the ground, like many other countries, the media screams pandemic test numbers skyrocketing while the Nepali people themselves keep on going as per normal. Like with many declarations, weeks have passed, lockdowns have ended, and life goes on. Maybe there will be a lockdown next week again, maybe not. Most people are taking it in their stride and want to get back to work.

What COVID-19 vaccines is Nepal likely to be looking at?

Pfizer (USA/Germany)

Pfizer was the first to make an announcement about their 90% effective vaccine. It needs to be stored at -70 degrees and two doses are needed.

  • Pro’s – it’s highly effective. It’s being mass produced and rolled out in the UK and USA already
  • Con’s – its ultra low temperature storage. $19.50 cost. Many countries have already ordered millions of doses. New vaccine methodology
Vaccination in arm
COVID-19 vaccinations will be coming to Nepal

Moderna (USA)

Moderna’s vaccine touts a 94.5% effective rating and needs to be stored at refrigerator temperature. Two doses are needed.

  • Pro’s – it’s highly effective. It’s being mass produced
  • Con’s – $35++ cost. Its bulk orders are to be used in the USA first. New vaccine methodology

Oxford / AstraZeneca (UK)

The AstraZeneca vaccine has a 90% effective rate but has caused confusion as this is an unexpected half dose rating. A full dose rating is 60-70% effective. More trials are underway.

  • Pro’s – it’s incredibly cheap at about $3 USD. Stored at refrigerator temperatures. Is already being mass produced. Proven vaccine methodology. It’s said to stop transmission as well
  • Con’s – Those test results need to be clarified

BBIBP-Corv (China)

The second country to announce they had a vaccine, but one of the only countries not to release any data at all on it.

  • Pro’s – Proximity to Nepal, highly likely to make a deal for doses
  • Con’s – Zero test results or information about it

Sputnik V (Russia)

The first country to announce they had a vaccine, but again one of the only countries not to release any data at all on it.

  • Pro’s – Proximity to Nepal, highly likely to make a deal for doses
  • Con’s – Zero test results or information about it

Best of the rest

Johnson & Johnson are planning to release a USD $10 vaccine. Novavax is planning to release a USD $19 vaccine. There’s about a dozen more in development. Most are expected in 2021-2022.

Nepal’s unusual predicament when it comes to obtaining a vaccine

When a national disaster has hit Nepal in the past its always been highly reliant on foreign aid. For example in 2015 over 4.6 billion USD in aid was given to Nepal following the earthquake. Much of Nepal’s flood and landslide prone roads have in the past been funded and built by other countries. Similarly there’s a vast number of foreign NGO’s in Nepal who rely on foreign donations for food programs, equal rights, child abuse, and so forth. With the current pandemic things are different – the whole world is affected. And, every country is bidding for vaccines.

COVID-19 Virus image
China will likely make a play to offer free COVID-19 vaccinations to Nepal

Now is not a good time to be dependent on other countries. Especially when other countries can easily out bid Nepal for vaccine supplies. Nepal is not alone here with organizations like Gavi who endeavor to procure vaccines for developing countries. Similarly India and South Africa have been approaching the UN and WHO about taking patents off COVID-19 vaccines to make it easier for them to produce vaccines themselves.

Then we come to the unknown factor of China and Russia. Did you know there are already over 1,000 Chinese workers in Nepal who claim to be safe under this unknown Chinese vaccine? It is no secret that China has been trying and successfully wooing Nepal economically and politically. It will come as no surprise if a “deal” is made to supply Nepal with a free vaccine in exchange for trade, mining rights, transport rights or any combination. Something similar could be said of Russia.

Which vaccine is Nepal likely to choose?

I would imagine, given the current status of Nepal, it will wait for a deal to be offered to it. Nepal’s policy has always been to select the cheapest price. That includes, roads, construction and in this case the medical industry. It’s a tainted policy in many regards and rarely works out for the long term. There’s no doubt private hospitals will buy in whatever they can and offer it at a premium to those that can afford it.

The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is a likely candidate for Nepal as it does not require extremely low temperatures for storage unlike the Modera and Pfizers vaccines, is based on previous vaccine procedures and has a low price. Even better again, it is said to prevent transmission of the virus which would help protect mountain communities. Even with this Nepal will still likely ask for a discount. Something that’s not likely to happen unless the UK opts to lend a hand. However projects like Gavi could also step in to secure a certain amount of doses for Nepal. It won’t be that straight forward though.

Once Nepal makes a few statements about its options, I would think that China will step in to “save the day” and offer free vaccines for all of Nepal. The news will fill the country with excitement while the real news of the “in exchange for trade, mineral rights e.t.c.,” will be left in the shadows. Much like in Pakistan and Sri Lanka with the one belt, one road initiative of loans in exchange to use Chinese companies, products, workers, and money. The one spanner in the works could well be India if its own project to remove vaccine patents comes into play. If that’s the case, India’s massive pharmaceutical industry may well make a similar play.

What about tourism and the vaccine in Nepal?

Once again I believe there will be an almost certain requirement that all tourists will need to have been vaccinated and prove vaccination before being allowed into Nepal. It may well start off rigidly with visas only be acquired from overseas embassies e.t.c., but will quickly move to visa on arrival once again so long as you have proof of a vaccination.

Discover new places with the Kathmandu Valley Heritage Walk Book-
A vaccine choice for Nepal may well enter into a new future that will have far reaching implications beyond the COVID-19 pandemic

Given how many fake PCR test results that are currently moving around Nepal there is a chance governments will ask for specific vaccines to be used with government certification. This is where even more cash will be made from the pandemic. Likewise, a vaccine that prevents transmission will also be brought up as a preferred option to eliminate quarantines and PCR tests.

What I would be fairly certain about is that tourists won’t be offered vaccines in Nepal for a long time to come. It’ll likely have to be done at home. Private hospitals might prove to be an exception. At the moment tourists can enter Nepal so long as they have a trek booked, negative PCR test and a visa from an overseas embassy. This is likely to change. You can read more about my extensive COVID-19 updates from Nepal.

One thing is for sure. What a vaccine does aside from helping people not get sick is that it gives hope. After a devastating year which has seen illness, death, destruction of livelihoods and trauma to people everywhere the idea that something is on that way that can stop all this is a great gift to many. This is the great thing about hope. It gives us something positive to hold on to as we head into a holiday period. This hope helps us with the current situation. This hope lets us think that we are about to have a better world. At this time of the year, this is something we can all cherish as we can finally start to plan ahead.


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10 Replies to “When will Nepal get a COVID-19 Vaccine?”

  1. Will anyone be traveling that far for another year at least. It seems chaotic everywhere at the moment. Job losses, shortages, quarantines.

  2. Nepal will not get any vaccine unless it’s free. For too long the country has been asking for help and overcharging tourists.

  3. I hope that Nepal gets a vaccine like the rest of the world. We are all just waiting to take off again. But I really thing the country has to do this by itself. Then again, I don’t like the idea of any Chinese or Russian vaccine being given to Nepali people!

    1. There’s no question Nepal, like every other country, is on its own with this. Countries that have bonds like the EU or SAARC are now meant to step up. I think the EU is. Nepal is a part of SARRC. So let’s see if they manage something to help.

  4. There’s a lot being said by this anti vaccination group or groups. Too much shouting in the world today. Get vaccinated, have some faith like we did with measles, polio etc.

    Very soon we can travel out and see the world again. Nepal is on my list.

    1. I agree with the shouting and social media prominence of so many. It’s noisy out there. Too noisy. Vaccinations have proven to work over the decades. At the end of the day, people have a choice. It’s up to them if they want to get vaccinated and travel again.

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