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May 31, 2021

Hats Off!!! President Bhandari’s ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’

Arun Ranjit
File Photo: President Bidya Devi Bhandari
File Photo: President Bidya Devi Bhandari

As COVID-19 continues to rage throughout the world, first there was “mask diplomacy” and now there’s “vaccine diplomacy.”

Vaccine diplomacy is a hot topic which pairs well with pre-existing narratives about the region as a geopolitical battlefield. Returning to the initial question of whether “vaccine diplomacy” can change any minds, the answer is what it always has been.

Vaccine diplomacy is the use of vaccines to improve a country’s diplomatic relationship and influence of other countries.

A global health diplomacy that relies on the use or delivery of vaccines could also lead to the development and testing of some highly innovative neglected disease vaccines.

Vaccine diplomacy also “means a set of diplomatic measures taken to ensure access to the best practices in the development of potential vaccines, to enhance bilateral and/or multilateral cooperation between countries in conducting joint R&D, and, in the case of the announcement of production, to ensure the signing of a contract for the purchase of the vaccine at the shortest term.

As many rich countries including Australia, China, India, Mexico, European Union, Japan, Russia, United States are rolling out covid-19 vaccine others are being left behind. 

President’s Activeness

President Bidya Devi Bhandari is taking high-level diplomatic initiatives to bring a vaccine against corona. Her continuation to ‘vaccination diplomacy’ has continued the dialogue with the heads of the vaccinating nations including the neighbors.

She first wrote a letter to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind last week urging him to make the vaccine available. Then the next day the President had a 40-minute telephone conversation with her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Immediately after the talks, President Xi announced that Nepal would be given one million doses of vaccine. Some of them have already arrived and the remaining portions are under the pipeline.

According to the sources, the President has sent letters to Indian President, Chinese President, US President, Joe Biden, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.

First-time, in February, India has donated 1.1 million dose subsidy given to Nepal. And after, Nepal paid the amount to buy I million vaccines from India, However, unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic in India has massively spread and infected rate and death tolls figures became highest in the history.

Thus, India stopped exporting Nepal’s purchase listed 1 million vaccines. Thus, the President Bhandari wrote a letter to her Indian Counterpart President Ram Nath Kovind asking Nepal is in dire need of vaccines that were purchased,

On the other hand, the vaccine coming from China will be used to give the second dose to those who have received the first dose in Nepal, said the Health Ministry sources.

COVID-19 vaccines. File image: USA Today

On Friday alone, President Bhandari sent a letter to his US counterpart Joe Biden requesting that the vaccines be made available. On Saturday the President wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Sunday, the President wrote a letter to Queen Elizabeth II.

While the public health experts in Nepal are saying that it is a mandatory condition to vaccinate all the citizens before going to the polls, the President has taken continuous initiative.

Nepal has made a strategy to buy 5/5 million doses of vaccine from China and India.

The government of Nepal in its new budget, has already allocated Nepali Rs. 26 billion for the purchase of corona vaccine on Saturday alone adding allocation of Nepali Rs 37 billion for corona disease treatment.

As the need for high-level diplomatic initiatives is being raised at the grassroots level as the powers-that-be hold the vaccine, the President’s activism has led to the immediate arrival of one million doses of the vaccine from China. Anyway, Nepali people have to salute the President on her keen initiation taken for the health matters. Hats Off!!!

About 3 million people in Nepal have been vaccinated so far. There are more than 2.2 million people taking the first dose and more than 500,000 people taking the second dose.

Nepal has so far administered the first dose of vaccines to 2.11 million people, while another 654,851 people have got both jabs, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.

Beginning in 2001, the broad framework of global health diplomacy outlined to generate the concepts of vaccine diplomacy that are unique in comparison to other medical or public health interventions. Vaccines are the single most powerful intervention ever developed by humankind in terms of the lives that they save. 

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