VeroCell arrives in Nepal under Chinese pressure

Chinese Covid-19 vaccine sans permission for public use

Gajendra Basnet

March 29, 2021


VeroCell arrives in Nepal under Chinese pressure

KATHMANDU: Vero Cell, a vaccine provided to Nepal by the Chinese government, arrived in Nepal on Monday morning.

A production of Beijing Institute of Biological Products Company under the Chinese government’s Sinopharm, the vaccine was brought to Nepal by Nepal Airlines Corporation’s aircraft.

On arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi handed the vaccines to the Minister of Health and Population Hridayesh Tripathi.

According to the Ministry of Health and Population, the vaccine will be kept at the Teku-based storehouse of the Department of Health Services.

Interestingly, the Chinese vaccine has yet to receive approval for use from the World Health Organization (WHO). The Chinese vaccine brought to Nepal lacks documents related to the ‘clinical trial’ report of the vaccine.

When Khabarhub inquired about the rationality of using the vaccine that has not got the consent of WHO and the Department of Drug Administration (DDA), Spokesperson Dr. Jageshwor Gautam replied that other vaccines were also used while in similar status.

WHO’s  consent for the use of AstraZeneca’s Covishield was initially for emergencies, but was later approved for all uses,” Dr. Gautam told Khabarhub, adding, “The vaccine we have got now is also said to be for emergency use only, however, it has already been used in 12-15 countries.”

He said that the administration of the vaccine is allowed sans WHO permission as well. Provided the manufacturing country has granted permission for use and has even administered it there, other countries can also administer it, Dr. Gautam said.

According to Dr. Gautam, Nepal will start administering the vaccine soon.

There is a provision that any vaccine to be procured in Nepal has to get prior consent from the DDA. However, the Vero Cell vaccine has not received permission for public use. The DDA has given its consent only for emergency use.

According to Santosh KC, an information official at the DDA, only Covishield vaccine, a product of Serum Institute of India, has got permission for public use in Nepal. He said the Chinese vaccine ‘Vero Cell’ has got permission for emergency use only.

“As the Chinese vaccine is still under clinical trial, it can get permission only after fulfilling some more criteria,” KC said.

Professor Dr. Sujan Babu Marhatta says that Vero Cell can be administered in Nepal despite not completing the clinical trial.

“Although the vaccine has been in use in some countries, its effectiveness is not verified yet. However, as it has been used in many places, it can be used in Nepal as well,” Professor Dr. Sujan Babu Marhattha told Khabarhub.

Citing that Vero Cell has got some side effects, some countries have banned it during a clinical trial.

In its third trial carried out in Brazil, Sinovac, a vaccine manufactured by Sinopharm, was found only 50.4 percent effective. There have been no other reports about its effectiveness.

According to Dr. Anup Subedi, a public health expert, the Chinese vaccine and Covishield differ in their composition and structure itself. He says that the Chinese vaccine has been prepared by inactivating the structure of coronavirus itself.

Nepal spent 21 million to procure 800,000 vaccines!

The government has spent a huge amount to bring the vaccine it got in donations from China. Nepal spent Rs. 21,810,300 in airfare to bring the vaccine it received in a donation.

The Ministry of Health and Population informed that the government-chartered a special airbus to bring in the COVID-19 vaccine after the China government did not allow its transport on a passenger plane.

Spokesperson Dr. Gautam revealed that the vaccines were brought to Nepal at the government’s expense.

Earlier, India had delivered the Covishield vaccine to Nepal at its own expense.

Nepal brought Vero Cell after repeated pressure from the Chinese Embassy

Nepal brought the vaccine after repeated pressure from the Chinese Embassy. However, despite repeated requests from the Nepal government, the Chinese side did not provide the clinical trial document. Rather, it warned Nepal that if it did not hurry, the country might not get the vaccine at all.

After the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) inquired regarding the import of Chinese vaccines last January, China replied by urging the government to secure the vaccines immediately.

As per the letter sent by the Chinese embassy to MoFA, which was obtained by Khabarhub, it has been revealed that the documents of the supplier company as demanded by Nepal would be provided later but the government had to secure the vaccine without any delay.

“Necessary documents will be provided later. Get the vaccine immediately. You will have to wait a long time if you do not collect the vaccine now,” the letter sent to Nepal by the Chinese side read.

China has not provided the necessary documents and details about the company’s authenticity.

Earlier, on January 31, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal had assured the Nepal government in writing that it would provide 300,000 doses of vaccines produced by its state-owned company Sinopharm.

During a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali and his Chinese counterpart on February 5, China had promised to provide an additional 500,000 doses of the vaccine and urged Nepal to receive the vaccine immediately.

Not only this, the Chinese embassy here issued a statement on March 15 stating that China would not allow anyone visiting the country unless they were vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine.

“In order to resume personnel exchanges between China and foreign countries in an orderly manner, the Chinese Embassy in Nepal will provide facilitation to visa applicants who have been fully vaccinated with China-made COVID-19 vaccine,” the press statement said.

It means, every Nepali citizen willing to go to China must be vaccinated with China-made vaccines against the pandemic.

The Government of Nepal has maintained its mum on this issue.

According to Spokesperson Dr. Gautam, out of 23, 48,000 doses of vaccine in Nepal, the MoHP has got 548,000 doses in stock. “The vaccines received today have made the stock more than 1.3 million now,” he informed, adding, “1 million vaccines will be provided by India soon.”

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