We welcome the decision to provide free COVID-19 vaccine to all. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina had said in the last session of Jatiya Sangsad that money for vaccine was allocated in the budget. Bangladesh will also ask for a loan of two billion dollars from the World Bank for the vaccine. Funds might not be a problem, but the challenge is to get all people vaccinated and to ensure that the process is well managed.
Our government's position on vaccine collection is open. Vaccines will be collected from any source. The main challenge will be to coordinate the source, management and consumers of the vaccine. However, many rich countries with adequate money cannot be sure if they would get the right vaccine and adequate supply in time. Therefore, Bangladesh has to stick to vaccine diplomacy with sufficient funds.
It may be assumed that the world's most widely accepted vaccine will not be available immediately after production. So many countries in the world are paying in advance. Whether we can do the same and whether we can take loans in advance for the purchase of vaccines, and if we can, who will be given the money — we should consider these things very carefully.
There has been uncertainty about China's vaccine. The government will surely be able to take a well-thought decision in this regard. India has extended a helping hand to Bangladesh and Bangladesh has appreciated it. But if India has its own vaccine, that is different. If the vaccines are from Oxford it might be reasonable to try to communicate directly with Oxford.
We can be optimistic about the success of the immunization programme after receiving the vaccine. Our track record in immunisation programmes of other infectious disease is quite good. Many countries have not been so successful in this regard. This time the challenge is to maintain the continuity of that success.
It is essential to start preparations now so that no problem arises in management. Necessary manpower, training to build their capacity and skills, necessary infrastructure needs to be built or arranged. Vaccine storage facilities should be ensured so that the quality of the vaccine is not lost or damaged during storage. Not all areas of the country have uninterrupted power supply and adequate air-conditioning systems. This should be kept in mind.
It is important to remember that the coronavirus vaccination programme will be much larger than the current national immunization programme. Every person in the country must be brought under this vaccine. In other words, it is a huge task of collecting, storing and ensuring vaccines for the 170 million people. However, some people say that people who have recovered from COVID-19 do not need to be vaccinated because of the development of antibodies. But it will require antibody testing to confirm this.
Every person involved in the process, from collecting the coronavirus vaccine to administering it free of charge to every human being, ensuring the necessary manpower and infrastructure to carry out every step of the whole process smoothly, must be very sincere. Ensuring transparency and accountability through sound management must be ensured, too.