According to officials, vaccinating outbound workers with Vero Cell vaccines developed in China adds to the problem
Most labor destination nations do not recognize the vaccination, which was created by Sinopharm in China.
The plight of tens of thousands of Nepali job seekers who rely on Covid-19 vaccination for their travel and employment plans is far from ended.
Nepali migrant workers’ aspirations of finding job overseas have been crushed as the labor destination countries have made Covid-19 immunization mandatory for foreigners.
Migrant workers’ rights advocates and organizations have slammed the regulation as discriminatory against international job seekers, urging the source and destination countries to vaccinate incoming employees or cancel the policy entirely.
Following the introduction of required vaccination policies by labor destination nations, there has been an increase in demand for migrant workers to be given priority for vaccination because they are on the verge of losing their employment and lives.
Following that, the government decided to distribute immunizations to migrant workers.
However, the much-needed vaccination of migrant workers is only half the battle won. It has to do with a government-issued vaccine for migrant labor.
Stakeholders argue that the government’s decision to provide the Vero Cell vaccine, created by Sinopharm in China, is not the best choice of vaccine for migrant workers.
If anything, the vaccine option has exacerbated the problem.
“It was important to provide Covid-19 vaccinations to departing migrants. However, there is now a new issue,” said Sujit Kumar Shrestha, general secretary of the Nepal Association of International Employment Firms (NAFEA), an umbrella organization of privately managed recruiting agencies that hire and provide Nepali migrant employees to foreign businesses.
“Providing the Vero Cell vaccination to outbound migrants may complicate things for migrant workers because the vaccine is not recognized by the countries where they will be working.”
With vaccines arriving from countries such as China and the United States, the Nepal government decided to include migrant workers among the groups to be vaccinated beginning Tuesday.
According to the decision, the Vero Cell vaccine will be given to migrant workers, as well as persons over the age of 55, school and college employees, transportation workers, and those working in government-designated “vital services” sectors.
However, the vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca—not Sinopharm—have been approved in the majority of labor destination nations.
On July 12, the United States sent a little more than 1.5 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine to Kathmandu via the UN-backed COVAX facility.
The vaccination is being given to adults aged 50 to 54, disabled people, Nepalese refugees, as well as health officials and sanitation staff at health institutions.
There has been talk of giving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to ambitious migrant workers. However, the government eventually chose to immunize them with the Chinese vaccine.
The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security wrote to the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC) on Monday, requesting that outgoing migrant workers be inoculated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
“A lack of coordination among government officials appears to exist. The Health Ministry has recommended that migrant workers receive Vero Cell vaccines, while the Labor Ministry has requested the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is recognized by most labor destination countries,” said Shrestha, NAFEA’s general secretary.
“Even our organization has written to the government requesting that instead of the Chinese Vero Cell vaccination, departing migrant workers receive the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.”
Another group of recruiting firms, the Progressive Forum of Foreign Employment Agencies in Nepal, has asked the government to provide the single-dose vaccine to Nepali migrant workers.
The vaccine choice for migrant workers could be reconsidered by the technical committee that made the decision, according to Dr. Samir Adhikari, a joint spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and Population.
“After a long discussion, the technical committee on vaccination decided on the vaccine for migrant workers. If the committee deems it is necessary, the decision can be reviewed,” Adhikari added. “However, because the number of doses is restricted, there will be a significant dilemma about how to vaccinate migrant workers with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the future.”
Adhikari further stated that he was not aware of the letter from the Labour Ministry on the migrant worker vaccine.
The letter was made at the secretary level, according to Dipak Kafle, a spokesperson for the Labour Ministry.
According to Kafle, the joint secretary, “it appears that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be more appropriate for workers traveling on international employment.” “Because this vaccine is recognized by most countries, Nepali students, diplomats, and people with work permits might be administered the single-dose vaccine.”
According to Kafle, the topic has been discussed at the secretary level. By the time this report was published, no decision had been made.
Different vaccinations against Covid-19 have been licensed by different labor destination countries in the Persian Gulf, but only a few have recognized Vero Cell.
In its updated travel guidelines, Saudi Arabia, a major labor destination for Nepali migrant workers, stated that all guests must obtain and show proof of vaccination (Covid-19 vaccine certificates) with one of the approved vaccines by Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. Sinopharm’s Vero Cell is not included.
Kuwait, which has already stated that unvaccinated outsiders will be denied admission beginning August 1, will enable people who have received vaccines supplied by Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to enter. It, too, has not given its approval to Sinopharm’s vaccine.
Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines are administered in Oman, another labor destination in the region. It has not given its approval to Vero Cell.
“European and American vaccines are mostly approved in Nepal’s major destination countries,” Shrestha said. “As a result, giving them the Johnson & Johnson Janssen vaccine would be the best option.”
Qatar, which has made institutional quarantine for the unvaccinated essential, has classified the Sinopharm vaccine alongside those created by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson as conditionally-approved vaccines.
The United Arab Emirates has approved four vaccinations from Sinopharm, Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Gamaleya Research Institute, and Oxford-AstraZeneca, as well as allowing limited entrance to inoculated foreigners.
AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm, and the Gamaleya Research Institute all make vaccinations that are available in Bahrain.
The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, on the other hand, have not approved Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Janssen vaccine.
The Nepalese government’s plan to offer migrant workers the Vero Cell vaccine, which is not approved in most labor destination countries, has other flaws.
Outsiders must have had both doses of Covid-19 vaccinations and completed a 14-day stay in their home country after receiving the second dose before arriving in labor destination countries, according to the laws.
Workers are likely to wait a long time for their booster shot due to the limited availability of vaccines in Nepal and the long wait required to receive both doses, which could result in their visas being revoked.
“There’s a good probability their work permit will have expired by the time they get both doses of the vaccine. If Vero Cell shots are administered to migrant employees, this creates still another complication,” Shrestha explained.
Workers might take the Johnson & Johnson vaccine once, rest in Nepal for 14 days, and then fly to labor destination countries, according to Shrestha.
“With the Vero Cell shots, there is no such luxury. Workers who are currently stranded in the country owing to vaccine shortages will have to wait much longer to receive both doses of the Chinese vaccine,” Shrestha noted.
Demand for approximately 98,000 workers has arrived from various labor destination nations, according to NAFEA records, and aspiring migrant workers are receiving work permits.
However, they have been unable to fly due to continuous limitations imposed by destination nations, including restrictions on vaccine kind, according to Shrestha.
“Once the workers receive their visas, they should be able to travel to the nations where they would be employed within a month. Their visas and employment contracts will be cancelled if they do not comply. Employers cannot afford to wait a long time for them,” Shrestha explained.
An official from the Ministry of Labour expressed optimism that the government will revisit the vaccine choice for foreign workers.
“After the Department of Foreign Employment brought the problem to our attention, we wrote to the Covid-19 Crisis Management Centre.
However, we are unable to make a final decision because the Labour Ministry is not the appropriate entity to do so,” said Kafle, the ministry’s spokesperson. “Our point is that if a single-shot vaccination is available and can be administered to migrant workers, it would be preferable if they were immunized with it.”
Source – The Kathmandu Post