Covid-19 cases are low, but that’s not an excuse to avoid vaccination

South Asia Check / March 6, 2023

The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccines authorised by the Nepal Government provide better protection against Covid-19.

Nepal received 1.5 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent vaccine in February through the COVAX facility. With this, the government plans to further increase the number of vaccinations, including booster doses.

Eighty-two percent of Nepal’s total population has been vaccinated with the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of February 7, 2023. The active Covid-19 cases on March 5 were only six nationwide, accounting zero new cases and 3,658 vaccinations.

The government had in late December approved emergency use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s bivalent vaccine. The Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent vaccine is the first of its kind authorised by the Government of Nepal. “The vaccine will be used for the next vaccination campaign,” said Dr. Samir Kumar Adhikari, Head of the Health Emergency Operation Centre.

What is a bivalent vaccine and how does it work? 

Bivalent vaccines work by providing immune response against two different antigens, such as two different viruses or other microorganisms. The Covid-19 bivalent vaccine includes components of original virus strain as well as the Omicron variant of the vaccine. Since the vaccine is updated with original and Omicron strains, it provides a wider protection from the virus. 

The older vaccines were monovalent, including only one strain of the virus. In contrast, the bivalent vaccine has both original and Omicron strains of the virus. The pandemic has evolved since its origin in late 2019 as it mutated into newer variants; the new vaccine works for the original and the newer variant. In early January, South Asia Check had reported no vaccines at central stock for booster doses and the ministry was hopeful of receiving the new bivalent vaccine.

Are there any side effects?

As per Dr. Adhikari, no side effects have been found in this vaccine so far, and it is safe to use. He added that it has crossed several vaccine development stages, and that if there were side effects, it would not have come into use. The bivalent vaccines provide a better protection against Covid-19.

Government’s plan

Dr. Adhikari says the ministry will import new vaccines after using the current stock. The ministry has no plans to import new vaccines and store them as the vaccines might expire without use considering 80 percent of total population and almost all of the targeted population has been vaccinated with the first dose. The additional or booster dose turnout has been low since its start on January 17 last year.

According to Dr. Adhikari, the ministry is planning to organise a vaccination drive with a priority list, including frontline workers and elderly people, adopted when the first vaccination drive was conducted by the ministry. As new Covid-19 transmissions come to a nought, Dr. Adhikari worries, it is going to be a challenge to complete the vaccination drive as people are reluctant to take the vaccines, including the booster shots. 

Dr. Adhikari, though, warns that considering the nature of the Covid-19 virus and the people’s lenient attitude, the transmission cases might jump anytime. He further added “We should all stay informed and alert regarding the virus,” Dr. Adhikari said. 

An all-time-low national tally of the pandemic shows the vaccines have worked, and these bivalent vaccines will further strengthen us from being infected with the disease. 

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any purpose by giving due credit to