We are not certain when the coronavirus vaccine will be available. But this may happen any time. The vaccine issue came up during the recent visit of Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla. India has expressed their willingness to share the vaccine with Bangladesh as soon as it is available.
On the other hand, the possibility of getting 110,000 Chinese vaccines under an agreement between ICDDR,B and Sinovac has also been reported in the media, as did the Russian government's interest in providing free vaccines. However, it is not clear what will be the policy, plans and strategies of the Bangladesh government regarding the import, production and distribution of vaccines.
In this context, the National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has recommended 'advance payment' for the collection of vaccines from 'multiple' foreign sources instead of 'one'. Of course, there may be different opinions on this issue.
Because to get vaccine from multiple sources investment of huge sums will be required, which is a big risk. However, after reviewing the pros and cons, the government must finalize its initial policy and strategy on vaccine collection and management. Later they may change the plan to adapt to the situation.
Health and family welfare minister Zahid Malek said in mid-August, “Not everyone will be vaccinated at once. First the health workers, then the elderly, and then everyone else will get it.” But a month has passed and the government has not taken any steps in line with the three-step vaccination strategy. In fact, getting a vaccine is uncertain.
But when the vaccine will be available, there will be chaos because a lot is yet to be done. A survey will be needed. That's why experts are emphasizing 'serosurveillance' through antibody test kits. In order to know exactly how many human antibodies have been made. Because, those who have antibodies in their body, they will not need the vaccine.
Sadly, no such activity is visible to this end, although the issue is very much important. If we do not act now, people who have antibodies in their body will also get the vaccine and those who need it will be deprived.
Involving the public and private sectors of Bangladesh in vaccine import and distribution is a huge challenge. Being able to do the job competitively reduces the risk of imposing exclusive authority. The coronavirus vaccine, a joint venture between the University of Oxford in the UK and the AstraZeneca Company, is seen as quite promising.
Although the trial of that vaccine was suspended a few days ago, it has been resumed. A Bangladeshi private company has entered into an agreement with the Seram Institute of India to supply the vaccine to Bangladesh. The company said in a statement that it would provide the vaccine. The health minister said efforts were being made to bring the same vaccine officially. But no more details could be known.
We believe that the vaccine and its management should be taken very seriously. Considering the transport risks, timely collection of vaccines from foreign sources do not appear as the best option. That is why priority should be given to exploring alternatives like vaccine production through joint ventures within the country.