July 26: The government has not been able to conduct vaccination drive against the coronavirus for all citizens on a regular basis. As a result, the workers going for foreign employment have been left stranded. Various labor destination countries have decided that anyone entering their country must be vaccinated against coronavirus. However, due to the lack of regular vaccination campaign in Nepal, workers going for foreign employment are facing huge problems.
Workers bound for foreign employment had been stopped in Nepal due to the prohibitory order. Now the prohibitory order has been eased and even international flights have come into operation. On the contrary, most of the workers have not been able to go for foreign employment due to the lack of vaccination.
Most of the labor destination countries require people to take the prescribed or specific vaccine. Countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar have made the US vaccine Johnson & Johnson, Indian vaccine CoviShield and other vaccines mandatory. Similarly, other countries have prescribed vaccines accordingly. On the other hand, the number of prescribed vaccines is not sufficient in Nepal. As a consequence, Nepali migrant workers are unable to go for foreign employment on time.
Vijay Kumar Gahatraj of Jhapa has been working in Saudi Arabia for the past seven years. He had come home in April to celebrate his holiday. Prohibitory order was imposed from April 30. He also took a flight ticket of Qatar Airlines for Saudi Arabia, the labor destination in the last week of May. But due to the implementation of the prohibitory order, he could not reach his destination, Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has now made vaccines like Johnson mandatory for all visitors. Since Gahatraj has not been able to get vaccinated, he hasn’t been able to go to work yet.
The Johnson vaccination campaign was conducted in various vaccination centers in Kathmandu from July 19 to 21. He arrived in Kathmandu last Friday after learning that the vaccine was not going to be made available in Jhapa. But he is yet to receive the vaccine.
He is only a representative case. At Shukraraj Tropical and Communicable Diseases Hospital, Teku, there is a huge crowd of workers who have been stranded after not being able to get vaccinated. They have repeatedly demanded that vaccinations be provided to them promptly. However, the concerned body has not been able to take a proper decision in this regard.
According to the workers, the police and security personnel directed them to come for vaccination only after watching the news. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Population Dr Krishna Prasad Poudel said that the ministry is serious about the matter.
"We have made a plan on how to resolve this issue," he said, adding, "The ministry will work as soon as possible after the plan has been finalized."
The chief of Immunization Division, Department of Health Services, Jhalak Sharma informed that such problems came into existence after the allocated amount of vaccines for Kathmandu valley ran out of stock.
“The problem arose after the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was allocated for the Kathmandu Valley, was finished," he said.
“Vaccines have also been sent to other districts as well. Those who are going for foreign employment will be able to get vaccinated from their own district,” he said, adding, “The vaccination campaign will resume again in Kathmandu after the arrival of the next lot of vaccines.”
Sharma said that preparations are being made to set up a separate vaccination center for those going for foreign employment and those working in essential sectors. He said that even after the vaccination campaign comes to an end, a separate center will be set up targeting the workers going for foreign employment and it will always be open.
According to a source, the Ministry of Health and Population has already decided to set up a separate vaccination center targeting those going for foreign employment. But for some reason, it has not yet been officially announced to the public. It has been decided to operate vaccination centers at Teku, Civil Hospital, Armed Police Hospital Balambu and Patan Hospital for the workers going for foreign employment. Sources say that it could be implemented this week itself.