A small bottle labeled with a 'Vaccine' sticker stands near a medical syringe in front of displayed 'Coronavirus COVID-19' words in this illustration taken 10 April 2020.
A small bottle labeled with a 'Vaccine' sticker stands near a medical syringe in front of displayed 'Coronavirus COVID-19' words in this illustration taken 10 April 2020. Reuters

The government is trying to procure the Covid-19 vaccine of from all possible sources, including Oxford and AstraZeneca. Communications are on and measures are being taken to bring in the vaccine as soon as possible, several top government officials said. They said the use of vaccine may get emergency approval if necessary.

The government signed an agreement with vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India and local drug manufacturer Beximco Pharmaceuticals to procure the Covid-19 vaccine. India on Friday approved the vaccine developed by Oxford University for emergency use, Reuters reported. A day earlier, World Health Organization (WHO) approved the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine -- the first vaccine cleared by the WHO.

Beximco will mainly supply the Oxford vaccine in Bangladesh. Managing Director of Beximco, Nazmul Hasan, told Prothom Alo, as per the agreement Serum will supply the vaccine after the country approves it. There will be six consignments of vaccines in six months, each one containing 5 million doses.

All vaccines used by the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Bangladesh are approved by the WHO. When asked whether Bangladesh will wait for WHO’s approval to use the Covid-19 vaccine, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) director general ABM Khurshid Alam said, “We will collect necessary scientific data and all necessary documents for the approval of each vaccine in the country. We will go for approval soon.”

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The health DG said the prime minster has ordered that everything necessary be done to bring the vaccines from all possible sources within the shortest possible time. To do so, rules and regulations must be followed but no delay should ensue.

India approves Oxford-developed vaccine

Prothom Alo New Delhi Correspondent said experts made necessary recommendations for emergency use of the ‘Covishield’ vaccine, manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute after being developed by Oxford.

Quoting government sources, Indian media reported the recommendations will be forwarded to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI). No drug can be used in India without DCGI’s approval.

Reuters reported DCGI has decided to approve the use of the Oxford-developed vaccine. India wants to use the Covid-19 vaccine soon. The country might start vaccinations on Wednesday.

Serum Institute of India is manufacturing ‘Covishield’ vaccine at the joint initiative of Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Before that, the UK approved this vaccine for emergency use. Last Wednesday, a specialist team of India’s health ministry held a meeting on emergency immunisation. A total of two meeting were held in only three days. Friday’s meeting decided to give approval for the vaccine. Times of India reports, the Indian specialist team is considering the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine after examining and scrutinising detailed data in phases.

New Delhi-based NDTV reports, Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech presented details data and information on their vaccine. Both companies sought approval for emergency use. The meeting weighed both ones along with Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. But Pfizer took several more days to present details data on its vaccine.

Pfizer gets WHO’s approval

Despite less appearance in India, Pfizer and BioNTech is dominating the world. News agency AFP reports WHO approved the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech for emergency use on Thursday, paving the way for import and distribution of millions of does around the world.

According to US-based drug manufacturer Pfizer and German-based BioNTech, their vaccine efficiency is 95 percent. On 2 December last year, the UK became the first country to approve Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and began immunising on December 8. Later, USA, Canada, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and several European countries followed the UK.

WHO said, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the first to get its clearance a year after coronavirus broke out in China and it’s a positive step to ensure global accessibility of Covid-19 vaccine. Besides, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and secure in line with its rules and regulations on vaccination.

However, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs sub-zero temperature. It needs to be preserved at minus 70 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, the Oxford vaccine is relatively less costly and easy to preserve. It can be kept in a normal freezer.

India is set to become the first country to run a trial vaccination programme in South Asia, beginning on Saturday. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said preparation has been taken similar to that of a national election. Their main goal is to avoid any mistake when the actual vaccination begins.

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Preparation by Bangladesh

An official involved with the vaccination programme told Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity that preparation is going in full swing so that vaccination can start within the shortest possible time after it arrives in the country.

Purchase of necessary medical supplies including syringes is underway. Lists of people from different sections and professions to be vaccinated on priority have been nearly finalised. But the health ministry does to want to disclose it before the vaccination starts. There is a plan to run one or two trials beforehand to learn about any possible complexity during the actual vaccination programme.