The issue of 10 million stored vaccines nearing expiration date was learnt from the proceedings of a meeting regarding Covid vaccinations, held on 25 July. Health minister Zahid Maleque chaired that meeting of DGHS.
Data presented at the meeting stated that among the vaccines in stock, 10,520,688 were of Sinovac and the expiration dates of which range in between 30 September and 30 November.
It was decided to contact the Chinese government through the foreign ministry alongside contacting the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh about returning the vaccines to China, in that meeting.
When asked if the Chinese government or the Chinese ambassador were contacted, on condition of anonymity a senior official of the foreign ministry told Prothom Alo, there is nothing to discuss about the vaccines that have arrived in Bangladesh already.
Sources say, the government now wishes to use the Sinovac vaccines as third doses. World Health Organization (WHO)’s approval was sought for that.
Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the DGHS’s vaccine management committee, speaking to Prothom Alo, said on Monday night, the use of Sinovac vaccines as third dose has been approved. Now these vaccines will be put to use.
However, there are worries whether it will be possible to use up the 10 million vaccines within a short period of time. For, people have very little interest in being vaccinated. There is also not much concern about the Covid situation either.
DGHS reports state, about 121.3 million people have received double doses of corona vaccine in the country till last Sunday. Meanwhile, around 9 million people have received single shots.
Only about 44.9 million people have been vaccinated with third or booster dose of the corona vaccine. As per the record from last Sunday, about 150 thousand people had taken the third dose of the vaccine in the previous 24 hours.
Bangladesh not accepting 10 million vaccines
The 11 million of the 75 million Sinovac vaccines promised through COVAX haven’t arrived in the country yet. The government doesn’t want these vaccines and the concerned authorities have been informed about this.
Member secretary of the DGHS’s vaccine management committee Shamsul Haque said, those vaccines are not being accepted.
Meanwhile, an officer of the health services directorate informed this reporter that a team of COVAX representatives is in Bangladesh right now. DGHS officials met with the COVAX delegation at a city hotel yesterday (Monday).
He added, even if Bangladesh doesn’t receive those 11 million vaccinations, there are uncertainties about getting refund.
DGHS sources state, the government has gifted one million doses of Sinovac vaccine to Myanmar, from the total amount Bangladesh was supposed to get. The gift was conveyed through ASEAN, the association of Southeast Asian nations.
On last 24 August, Cambodian deputy prime minister Prak Sokhonn on behalf of ASEAN sending a letter to the foreign ministry thanked Bangladesh for donating the vaccines to Myanmar.
320 million vaccines arrived
Information given on the website of Covid-19 task force formed comprising the chiefs of International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank Group, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization says, Bangladesh is leading the way in vaccinations among the neighbouring countries.
About 71.58 per cent citizens of the country have received double doses of the vaccine. The rate is about 67 per cent in India, about 57 per cent in Pakistan, about 70 per cent in Nepal and about 51 per cent among the people of Myanmar.
Last month, the health minister said it in the Jatiya Sangsad that 323.1 million vaccines have been imported in the country till 22 August in prevention of Coronavirus.
When asked, public health expert Mushtaq Hussain told Prothom Alo, Sinovac vaccines can be administered as the third dose if both corona doses have already been taken. World Health Organization approves of this.
Mustaq Hussain added, there was a crisis of vaccines at a time. It was a big deal to get vaccines then. Now there is no shortage of vaccines.
* This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Nourin Ahmed Monisha