Nepalese drug regulators are reportedly investigating a gift of 2,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses brought to the country by a Bahraini sheikh who flew in to climb Mount Everest.
Sheikh Mohamed Hamad Mohamed Al Khalifa arrived in Kathmandu on Monday night with 15 others including three British nationals to climb the world’s highest mountain as part of a Bahrain Defence Force.
As well as mountaineering equipment and provisions their expedition is also bringing in enough doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to inoculate 1,000 people, according to posts on their official Instagram.
The vaccines will be administered en route to the summit to residents of a village near a Himalayan range who recently renamed a local hill after the Gulf country’s royal family.
“While they are climbing, they will pass by a village with 1,000 citizens living by the Bahrain Royal Peaks and get them all vaccinated,” a post by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, a national security adviser and major-general, said.
“The much needed vaccines from Bahrain will be delivered in the coming days under the guidance of the Nepal minister of health,” another post said. “Planning and administration will start early tomorrow.”
But the gesture came as a surprise to Nepal’s drug regulator, who told a local newspaper he was not aware that any vaccine supplies were arriving in the country.
“We have deployed a team of drug inspectors to investigate how the vaccines were brought into the country without any prior approval,” Bharat Bhattarai, the director general of the Department of Drug Administration, told the Kathmandu Post. “We did not know that vaccines were being imported from Bahrain.”
He said anyone importing vaccines into the country had to do it through official channels to ensure cold chain and safety requirements were met.
The Bahraini team, who have all reportedly been vaccinated, will spend a week in a hotel quarantining before they mount the 79-day expedition.
The Nepalese embassy in Manama published, on Monday, through its Facebook account, pictures of the departure of the Bahraini team with vaccinations.
Nepal requires a prior permit in order to bring any medicine into the country. The importer must obtain prior authorization and provide a guarantee that the medicines will be stored properly.
Nepal launched its vaccination campaign on January 27, and it is prioritizing those most at risk. It is currently vaccinating people over the age of 65.