The government aims to procure 20 million (2 crore) doses of the Covid vaccine within the next four months in order to bring the spread of coronavirus under control. It hopes to get a consignment of the vaccines from COVAX within June, though the health ministry cannot confirm how many doses it will receive in the consignment.
The government will receive 64 million (6 crore 40 lakh) doses of the Covid vaccine for 20 per cent of the country’s population. It is to receive 19 million (1 crore 9 lakh) doses at first. COVAX is a global initiative headed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) aimed at providing poor and mid-income countries with the vaccine for free.
The prime minister’s office sources said that an emergency meeting regarding the Covid-19 vaccine was held on 27 April, chaired by the PM’s principal secretary Ahmad Kaikaus. It was at this meeting that the matter of procuring the vaccine within the next 4 months was discussed. It was said that the health department could follow the direct purchase method to procure the vaccines, with approval of the cabinet committee in economic affairs.
A committee headed by the secretary of the health division would look into the negotiations regarding the vaccine costs. The committee would also include the director general of the Directorate General Health Services (DGHS), director of the Central Medical Stores Depot, a director general from the PM’s office, an official of the additional secretary rank from the finance division and a representative of the director general rank of the foreign ministry.
Till Monday, 58,19,719 (58 lakh 19 thousand 719) of the first dose of the vaccine has been administered so far and 30,23,169 (30 lakh 23 thousand 169) of the second dose
Two days after the meeting, on 29 April another meeting was held at the initiative of the health services division. Sources said that procuring vaccines in accordance to the agreement with India’s Serum Institute had become uncertain and so the vaccination drive for the first dose had been held up. However, given the prevailing state of the contagion in the country, the vaccination programme should not only continue, but be strengthened further. The meeting observed that there was slim chance of receiving the vaccines from Serum Institute over the next two or three months.
The meeting finalised the matter of forming an inter-ministerial consultant committee for the procurement and distribution of the vaccine. This high-level committee headed by the health services division secretary will determine the demand for the vaccine based on the present and the projected future trend of coronavirus transmissions. Vaccines suitable for Bangladesh would be selected from all possible internationally recognised sources, in consideration of price, availability, effectiveness and safety. The committee would consult with experts if necessary.
According to DGHS, till Monday, 58,19,719 (58 lakh 19 thousand 719) of the first dose of the vaccine has been administered so far and 30,23,169 (30 lakh 23 thousand 169) of the second dose.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration in January this year first approved of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use. This is Covishield manufactured by India’s Serum Institute. This is the vaccine being used in the country at present.
On 27 April, approval was given to Russia’s vaccine Sputnik V. This vaccine is being used in over 60 countries of the world. Then on 29 April the government approved of the vaccine manufactured by Chinese company Sinopharma for emergency use.
In all, the government has approved of three vaccines. Talks are on for the manufacture of two of these in the country.
So far DGHS has received 13 million (1 crore 3 lakh) vaccines from India, purchased and as gift. The contract was for 30 million (3 crore) vaccines. According to the deal signed in December last year, the vaccines were supposed to be delivered within six months.
In the meantime, health minister Zahid Maleque has said that the 500,000 (5 lakh) vaccines being provided by China as a gift, may arrive by 10 May. Speaking to newspapers at the secretariat on Monday, he said a proposal has also been sent to China for the purchase of more vaccines, even if it’s for 40 or 50 million ( 4 or 5 crore) doses. Talks have also been held for procuring vaccines from Russia.
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir