With Covid-19 vaccine expected to arrive in the country at the end of January or the beginning of February next, the government is now working to finalise the strategy to distribute the jab across the country.
“We’ve already devised a plan about the distribution of the coronavirus vaccine across the country and now work is underway on how the vaccination programme will be conducted,” Prof Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general (Planning and Development) of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told the Daily Sun.Mentioning that Bangladesh will receive the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and Astrazeneca at the same time when India gets it, she said, “But we won’t use it without the approval of the World Health Organization (WHO) as per the directive of the Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina).”
Dr Flora also advised people to continue taking preventive measures, including using masks and adhering to other health guidelines, to chase away the virus even after the vaccine rollout, saying the efficacy of the vaccines developed so far is not cent percent.
She said under the supervision of the DGHS, the coronavirus vaccination prgoramme will be coordinated by the government’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI). “Necessary training will be given to health service providers to conduct the coronavirus vaccination programme across the country,” she said.
The DGHS official said the frontline fighters who are at risk of getting exposed to the virus, people aged above 60 years and freedom fighters will get the vaccine on a priority basis.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday said Bangladesh would get nine crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine by May or June next for inoculating 4.5 crore people against the coronavirus.
“Three crore doses of vaccine for 1.5 crore people will arrive in the country from the end of January or first week of February while another six crore doses for 3 crore people by May or June,” Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam quoted the prime minister as telling the weekly Cabinet meeting.While briefing reporters after the meeting, the Cabinet secretary said training for the vaccination is underway and the EPI vaccination chain would be involved massively in the job.
Replying to a query, the Cabinet secretary said the government is now thinking only about Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but it would not say ‘no’ to any other vaccine which will get the approval of WHO. “Our technical committee will approve the vaccines,” he added.
The government on December 13 signed the formal agreement with the Serum Institute of India and local company Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to procure 30 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine once it is approved for human application.
Bangladesh will purchase the vaccine from the Indian company, which manufactures vaccines and immuno-biologicals, over the next six months with 5 million arriving every month.
Earlier, a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed over the vaccine procurement.
According to the MoU, the Serum Institute, the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world, will supply 30 million doses of the vaccine -- 5 million per month -- to Bangladesh at a price similar to what India will get at, once it is finally approved for human application.
The government will procure this Covid-19 vaccine via the local drug producer, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd, the sole supplier of Serum's vaccine to Bangladesh.
The Health Ministry sources said each dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will cost US$ 5 and each person will require two doses 28 days apart.
“As per the agreement, Beximco will reach out the vaccine to the district level across the country,” said Dr Flora, also chair of the National Vaccine Deployment Committee.
Health Ministry sources said the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce has prepared a draft list of 10 groups of people from different professions for being vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab.
The list has already been sent to the ministry for necessary advice and approval.
“Monitoring committees will be formed at the national, district and upazila levels to create lists of vaccine recipients and carry out the vaccination programme,” Dr Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the taskforce, told the Daily Sun.
The DGHS sources said the first 50 lakh doses of vaccine to be procured from the Serum Institute will be given to frontline fighters such as physicians, other health workers, police, army personnel and administration officials.