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Long Queues And Dearth Of Covid-19 Jabs In Nepal

Hundreds of Nepalese were seen queuing in lines outside vaccination centers to get their jabs. 

KATHMANDU, Nepal — Hundreds of Nepalese were observed queuing in serpentine lines facing the scorching sun and uncertainty over the chance to get the jab outside vaccination centers on the morning of July 30.

As per the latest data, Nepal has 690,642 confirmed Covid-19 cases and has experienced 9,807 deaths. As many as 1.4 million Nepalese were vaccinated with the first dose. However, later Nepal experienced a shortage in doses.

As per Amnesty International, only 2.4 percent of the total population of about 30 million is fully vaccinated.

The visuals of long lines have become commonplace throughout all vaccine centers since the second wave of Covid-19 struck the country. Lucky ones get jabs, while some are turned away due to a shortage of vaccines.

Saroj Shrestha was one of the denizens of Kathmandu (capital of Nepal), who was turned away from the gate of a vaccination center on July 30 after the vaccine quota for the day got exhausted.

“They turned me out from the gate, citing the tokens for vaccines had been distributed for the day,” Shrestha said.

“I have to come the next day, that too at around 6 am to ensure my shots as they would distribute the token for the day from 8 am.”

Despite the latest purchase of four million jabs from China, the arduous wait for it increases frustration amongst people getting a vaccination.

Nepal started its immunization campaign in January after receiving donations of vaccines from India.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) tweeted about the arrival of vaccines from the US on July 12 on their official Twitter handle.

“Over 1.5 million #COVID19 vaccines landed in #Nepal this morning,” the tweet read.

“The vaccines, donated by US @statedept to COVAX arrive amidst the ruins of the recent wave.”

“Just 4 percent in Nepal are fully vaccinated. To prevent more heartbreak, other countries must #DonateDosesNow.”

As the nation is facing the third wave of the pandemic, queues outside vaccination centers carry the potential to fuel the infection as all health protocol measures are flouted.

In order to reduce the influx of people to major hospitals, the government is now conducting inoculation drives at local levels also. Still, it has become hard for local bodies to manage the lines.

The local bodies have claimed urgency among people. The communication gap between authorities and people has fueled the confusion in the current situation.

“Standards fixed by the state that people above 54 years need not stand in line for jabs are being followed,” Keshav Thapa, a local body representative of Nagarjun Municipality in capital Kathmandu, said.

“However, for others, we have separated two lines based on gender outside and inside the vaccination center.”

“There has been confusion, and people react to it. Most people think that they should get the jabs as they reach the vaccination centers.”

“These vaccines are meant to avert the severe impact of Covid-19, we have been requesting them to maintain distance and stand in queues, but they want the vaccine to be administered immediately and quickly, be the first amongst others,” Thapa said.

Thapa said that the influx of people from Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) areas has also played a role in increasing footfalls in vaccination centers like in his area, which lies on the outskirts of the capital.

“People who have flocked to this vaccination center in Nagarjun Municipality-04 lies at a closer distance with the Kathmandu Metropolitan.”

“People from Kathmandu Metropolitan stand higher than those residing here at Nagarjun Municipality. That’s why the number of people standing in a queue is high,” Thapa said.

But not all those who flocked to the outskirts for vaccination get jabs, and some have to return home in anger despite standing in line for hours or even the whole day, as per Thapa.

“When I was close to the entrance, they asked 100 people to queue for the vaccine. Now they are turning out from here saying doses are now out.”

“I stood in the queue since 10 am, and it’s been almost evening, and they also won’t give us the coupon for the next day,” Namita Shrestha, a denizen from Kathmandu Metropolitan who had to wait for hours and turned out from the vaccination center, said.

Though Nepal earlier had introduced an online registration system to book slots for vaccines, call for vaccines based on early bird booking is yet to start. But the government has been claiming that easy and equal access to vaccines has always been its priority which has failed in terms of execution.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Amrita Das and Pallavi Mehra