Kathmandu: Nepal on Monday received over 1.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the US at a time when the country is facing a severe shortage of jabs.

This is the first consignment of the single-shot vaccine Nepal has received. The US provided 1,534,850 doses to Nepal through the COVAX scheme, the global COVID vaccine equity scheme.

US Ambassador Randy Berry handed over the vaccines to Health Minister Krishna Gopal Shrestha on Monday.

Today we’re giving Nepal enough #JNJ COVID19 vaccines via #COVAX to fully vaccinate 1.5 million people, Berry wrote on Twitter after handing over the vaccine to Nepal.

I’m proud that the US is the largest single-country donor of #COVID19 assistance to Nepal. This gift, on behalf of the American people, has the singular goal of saving lives, Berry added.

Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli conveyed sincere gratitude to the Government and the people of Nepal to the US Government for providing the generous support of vaccines.

Health Minister Shrestha said on Monday that the American vaccine will be given to people aged 50 to 54, the Kathmandu Post reported.

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The arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will complement Nepal’s vaccination drive amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

It is a big respite for Nepal, which is struggling to secure enough doses to inoculate its population around 72 per cent of the total.

Nepal started its vaccination drive with the 1 million doses of Covishield, the AstraZeneca type vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, which were gifted to Nepal by the Indian government.

Of the 2 million doses Nepal bought from the Serum Institute, only 1 million doses were shipped, the report added.

The Johnson & Johnson doses arrived days after 8 million doses of Vero Cell, a double-shot vaccine manufactured and developed by Sinopharm, were brought in from China, the report said.

The consignment was part of 4 million doses Nepal has bought from China. China has already provided 1.8 million doses of Vero Cell under grant assistance, the report added.

Nepal’s coronavirus caseload reached 699,088 with the detection of 1,831 new cases in the last 24 hours, the ministry said on Sunday. Of the total cases, 619,894 people have recovered so far.

The countrywide COVID-19 death toll increased to 9,382 with 20 more fatalities.

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