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Bahraini Sheikh arrives in Nepal with 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses, but brings the ‘wrong’ kind

Kathmandu: Fulfilling his promise of providing 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses to local villagers in Nepal after completing an expedition there in September 2020, a member of Bahrain’s royal family arrived in Kathmandu for another expedition – this time to Mount Everest, the New York Times reported.

The situation has however turned into a Catch-22.

The Nepali government had earlier announced that the gifted doses would be AstraZeneca’s vaccine, but the country’s drug regulators found that doses brought by the Bahraini climbers led by Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed al-Khalifa, are China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

The doses, which arrived on March 15, now sit in cold storage at the Kathmandu International Airport as Nepal deliberates on whether to accept them or not. Meanwhile, the climbers are being quarantined at a hotel till the situation is sorted.

The Bahraini climbers visited Nepal in September 2020 to climb the Lobuche Peak and Mount Manaslu and had promised to provide 2,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses for villagers of Samagaun, which is a gateway to Mount Manaslu. The promise led to villagers dub the local peak “Bahrain’s peak.”

The climbers could not be reached for comment, the report said.

But Mingma Sherpa – the owner of Seven Summit Treks the agency that organized the Bahraini team’s Everest expedition, said the “complications might have resulted from a miscommunication between the country’s foreign ministry and health ministry.”

“Sinopharm vaccine had been used during Bahrain’s vaccination drive. It is up to the government. If they think it is okay, the vaccines will be administered to villagers. If they think it is risky to vaccinate the people, the team will take the vaccine back to Bahrain,” he said.

Notably, both Bahrain and Nepal have approved AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines for use, but the latter is yet to receive its consignment of 500,000 donation doses from China.

Nepal has so far used 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines donated by India for its vaccination drive to vaccinate 1.7 million of its 30 million population, but rollout has been slow. It is now also awaiting another consignment of 2 million AstraZeneca vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII), which have been delayed.

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