Price of vaccine

The virtual event held by WHO disclosed the cost of buying vaccines in eight countries in Southeast Asia region. Pakistan was not included in the list as they are not part of this geographical region.

WHO’s regional adviser of health financing and governance Valeria De Oliveira Cruz said they organised the programme to extend policy support for making the vaccination programme successful and sustainable.

Regional WHO officials spoke at the programme. The costs of vaccination were determined based on discussion with stakeholders in different countries, said the organizers.

Apart from Bangladesh, the prices of vaccines bought by India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand were disclosed in the programme.

According to the data, Nepal bought the vaccine at the cheapest price. They bought each dose of vaccine for Tk 362 while India bought each dose for Tk 439. Indonesia bought each dose for Tk 1559.

Bangladesh got Covid vaccine in four ways—through gift, donation, direct and shared purchase. According to the latest information on Saturday Bangladesh has so far received over 296.4 million (29,64,95000) doses of vaccine.

Of them, over 92 million doses came from China and India through direct purchase. Bangladesh purchased 8,71,87,000 more doses by sharing the expenses with the COVAX subsidy.

Health ministry officials said those vaccines were bought from China in cooperation with UNICEF. So, Bangladesh bought 17 crore 91 lac 93 thousand vaccines through direct and purchase through Covax. The WHO meeting did not disclose separate rates for vaccines purchased directly and through share.

Asked why Bangladesh purchased vaccines at a higher rate, the director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Abdul Basar Mohammad Khurshid Alam told Prothom Alo that the ministry negotiated the price of vaccines, rather the ministry did. The DGHS boss said he cannot comment on this issue as he does not know about it.

But the DGHS DG signed the contract on vaccine purchase on behalf of the health department. Asked about this, the DGHS chief said it was a ‘non-disclosure agreement’.

Several lawmakers in the parliament asked about the price of the vaccine at different times. The health minister, however, replied the price cannot be disclosed as the agreement was ‘non-disclosure’.

Bangladesh primarily took initiative to buy vaccines from Serum Institute. Many at that time complained that depending solely on India for the vaccine was a mistake. Serum suspended sending vaccines to Bangladesh since the demand had skyrocketed in India.

Bangladesh then started rummaging all the sources for vaccines. The health officials said getting vaccines at any cost became a priority at that moment.

Health services division secretary Lokman Hossain Mia told different events lately that around Tk 200 billion has been spent on purchasing the vaccine. On the latest occasion, he said that at a vaccination programme in Dublarchar on 23 February.

Heath minister Zahid Maleque on 10 March said at an event that the government spent Tk 400 billion on the purchase of Covid vaccine and immunization activities. He, however, did not say how much was spent separately on purchase and immunization.

It was not possible to talk with the health minister regarding the price of each dose.

Alongside purchasing, there are also costs in other activities in the immunization programme. UNICEF has made a list of cost categories in immunization which include manpower, honorarium of temporary workers, awareness, transport, equipment, cold chain, technical assistance, washing facilities, waste management, plan and coordination, vaccine certificate, personal protective equipment, observation of vaccine’s side effect, ultra-cold chain and training.

The participants in the WHO’s programme said Bangladesh spent the most on immunization while the Maldives spend the least.

According to DGHS, as many as 128.2 million people in Bangladesh received the first dose of Covid vaccine as of Sunday and 115 million got the second dose. A total of 10.7 million booster doses have been administered so far.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo online and print editions, has been rewritten in English by Galib Ashraf.