Women and children sit in a line, waiting for their turn to get food relief packages provided by Nepal Overseas Chinese Business Association at Bungamati in Lalitpur, Nepal, April 29, 2020. (Photo: Xinhua)

KATHMANDU, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — Nepal has granted approval to the COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd, under Sinopharm, for the emergency use in Nepal, the country’s drug regulator said.

It is the second COVID-19 vaccine to get approval from the Department of Drug Administration, the Nepali drug regulator, after the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca received such approval a month ago.

The approval of the drug regulator is a pre-condition for any vaccine to be eligible for use in the Himalayan country.

“It is to notify to all concerned that the conditional permission has been granted for emergency use authorization to COVID-19 vaccines (vero cell), inactivated vaccine, manufactured by Beijing Institute of Biological Products Co. Ltd under Sinopharm against COVID-19 in Nepal,” the department said in a notice on Wednesday.

This approval has paved the way for Nepal to receive the COVID-19 vaccines that China had promised to deliver to Nepal.

“With the approval to the Chinese vaccine, we have now more alternatives on vaccines,” Dr. Shyam Raj Upreti, coordinator of the COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee under the health ministry, told Xinhua on Thursday.

But, the Nepali government is yet to decide on how and when to use the Chinese vaccines once they are supplied. “After the regulatory approval, we can now prepare a plan on the use of Chinese vaccines. We are also awaiting the confirmation of when the Chinese vaccines would be available to Nepal,” said Dr. Upreti.

Currently, Nepal has been running a vaccination drive against the COVID-19 with the vaccines supplied by India. India had supplied one million doses of Covishield, the vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca and produced by Serum Institute of India.

Dr. Jhalak Sharma, chief of the Child Health Section at the Family Welfare Division under the health ministry, told Xinhua on Thursday that the Nepali government has so far inoculated the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines for more than 300,000 people.

Initially, the Nepali government had prioritized vaccinating health workers, security personnel, people involved in waste management, journalists and some officials among others.

As of Thursday, Nepal reported a total number of 273,166 infected cases and deaths of 2,058 people from COVID-19, according to the health ministry.