Home >News >World >China unhappy with Nepal over disclosure of Sinopharm COVID vaccine price

KATHMANDU : China is unhappy with Nepal after some media publications disclosed the procurement price of Sinopharm vaccine amounting to around $10 per dose which Kathmandu is planning to buy from Beijing to tackle the second wave of COVID-19.

It was reported that four million doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine would be bought under a non-disclosure agreement by Nepal, as proposed by Sinopharm, to keep the details including the price and delivery date under wraps.

The Kathmandu Post's article revealed the price of the Sinopharm vaccine dose to be supplied to the Himalayan Nation based on confirmation from two ministers and two government secretaries who were present at Monday's Cabinet that decided to procure 4 million doses of vaccine from Sinopharm. The Post reported that the price was yet to be fixed given the nature of the agreement, but as per officials, it could be around $10 per dose.

"The way the media quoted the price of the vaccine and other logistical issues were concerning because these are very sensitive issues,"Dr Krishna Prasad Paudel, spokesperson for the Health Ministry told the Post.

Multiple officials confirmed that China communicated its displeasure to Nepali agencies. The officials told the Post that Sinopharm had communicated its displeasure at the publicisation of vaccine procurement by the government of Nepal.

Similarly, the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu also had reminded the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the nature of the deal, according to the officials.

"There was quite a lot of interest in the media before an agreement could be reached, which worried us. We were worried if we would get the vaccine or not," Dr Krishna Prasad Paudel, spokesperson for the Health Ministry, told the Post.

The Health Ministry on Thursday issued a statement, refuting media reports about buying vaccines from China. It not only said that no deal has been reached yet but also went on to blame the media for disseminating information on vaccine procurement from China.

In what was quite unusual on the part of the ministry, it issued the statement in English, specifying that Nepal has requested China to give preference to Kathmandu on vaccine cooperation.

"The government of Nepal has requested the government of the People's Republic of China to give preference to Nepal on vaccine cooperation. The process to secure vaccines from different countries including China is still ongoing," read the statement.

"Media reports on quantity, price, delivery, and other relevant information about the vaccine procurement are premature, speculative and misleading. The ministry refutes such unfounded and baseless media reports."

"Since it was mostly reported by the English media, we issued the statement in English," Dr Samir Kumar Adhikari, joint spokesperson for the ministry who signed the statement, told the Post on Friday. He refused to elaborate.

Buying vaccines from China, however, was easier said than done given the non-disclosure agreement proposal by Sinopharm. A non-disclosure agreement entails not quoting the price of the commodity, quantity in advance and mode of payments among other details.

The same day Prime Minister Oli informed the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre, which he heads, about procuring the vaccine from China. Similarly, on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Mahaseth told a TV channel that the government is buying 4 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China.

Many find the Nepal Health Ministry statement, blaming the media for disseminating information about the vaccine, uncalled for, as the prime minister and foreign minister themselves were discussing the matter publicly, Post reported.

Meanwhile, vaccine deal with Sinopharm, however, has stoked controversy in other South Asian countries as well.

In Bangladesh, after the price was disclosed, the country's finance ministry had issued a statement similar to the one issued by Nepal's Health Ministry.

According to the Daily Star, the Bangladesh government on May 27 approved the proposal of procuring 15 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China. An official of the Cabinet division at a briefing told journalists that the government was going to procure each dose at $10.

After the media reported about the vaccine procurement, a finance ministry official, according to the paper, requested the media not to mention the price for the "greater interest of the country". The same paper, earlier this month, reported China was annoyed with Bangladesh for making public the price of the vaccine.

"China is a little upset that the procurement price of the Sinopharm vaccine was made public in Bangladesh," said Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.

Disclosure of procurement price of Sinopharm vaccine had also sparked controversy in Sri Lanka last month, after reports suggested that the government was set to pay $5 more for per dose compared to Bangladesh.

There was similar displeasure from China at how the price was being made public in Nepal, according to a senior government official.

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