Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi has claimed that the government created fund and invited donations for COVID-19 vaccines on demand of nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and international NGOs (INGO).
The ministry publishing a notice in national dailies on Wednesday asked for money from I/NGOs, and business, social and philanthropic organizations to procure vaccines. The ministry citing the Cabinet decision on November 9, 2020 has requested the donations to be submitted to the bank account of the District Treasury Controller Office, Tripureshwore.
The decision to seek donations for COVID-19 vaccines was widely condemned with Nepali Congress (NC) Spokesperson Bishwa Prakash Sharma pointing how the government needlessly announced an election that costs billions but was asking for donations to procure vaccines for the people.
Minister Tripathi, however, claimed that the notice was published not because the government lacks funds but to address the wishes of I/NGOs. "We have guarantee of money. But we have created the fund after I/NGOs complained that they could not invest despite their wish," Tripathi contended.
When asked why the ministry has decided to collect fund when the Finance Ministry responsible for arranging fund for vaccines was working to that regard, he said money is needed even for other works. "Vaccines will come but we need money even for distribution and inoculation."
The Finance Ministry claimed that the necessary fund for vaccines has already been arranged. It pointed that donor agencies have already committee around Rs 700 billion for development projects and have committed to spend money from that for vaccines.
"Money needed to spend for management of COVID-19 has already been arranged from multilateral development partners. The government also has its internal resources," Finance Secretary Shishir Dhungana told Setopati.
The ministry has already started necessary process with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for that.
Coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO, COVAX aims to provide enough doses to vaccinate up to 20 per cent of the population of lower-income countries for free if sufficient funding is available.
Nepal has already started the process to get vaccines through COVAX. It will have to buy remaining vaccines and also pay to COVAX if all of its vaccines do not come for free. The Health Ministry has estimated that getting enough vaccines to inoculate 72 percent of the total population should suffice.