The government is mulling over allowing foreign companies to produce Covid-19 vaccines in Bangladesh as prices of imported jabs are high and the country needs more vaccines.
“India and China want to produce coronavirus vaccines in our country. If they follow the WHO rules, we will allow them to do so,” Health Services Division Secretary Md Abdul Mannan said while talking to the Daily Sun on Saturday.“If Covid-19 vaccines are produced here, their prices will also be lower. As the country has a large population, it needs more vaccines,” he added.
Bangladesh needs around 11 crore vaccines for nearly 5.5 crore people in first phase as vaccination against the deadly disease will begin in the first week of February.
“We’re going to get about seven crore vaccines under Covax facility. We’re also purchasing three crore vaccines from the Serum Institute of India. We will get some more vaccines at free of cost,” Mannan said.
Bangladesh has given money in advance to purchase vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, he mentioned.
The country is purchasing Serum's vaccine (Covishield) at around $4 (Tk 340) per dose.
“We’ll get more vaccine from the Serum Institute if its price is lower than our paid amount. We will bring more vaccines instead of taking the money back.”Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque told a programme on Saturday, “We will get first consignment of the vaccine at the end of January. We will give it on a priority basis and also bring all people under the vaccination programme in phases.”
He told another programme earlier said around 5.5 crore people of the country will be given Covid-19 vaccine within a year.
“Coronavirus vaccine won’t be needed for around 5.5 crore people out of 165 million people. Now we’re planning to provide vaccines for around 5.5 crore people. The rest of the people will be given vaccines in phases.”
The minister mentioned that about 40 per cent of the country’s total population under 18 would not be offered Covid-19 vaccines.
"People under the age are not being vaccinated anywhere in the world and no trial is being carried out on them," he said.
"About one crore people living outside the country, around 3.5 million pregnant women and the people suffering from other diseases won’t be given corona vaccine.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in December last said Bangladesh will get 9 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine by May or June next for inoculating 4.5 crore people against coronavirus.
“Three crore doses of vaccine for 1.5 crore people will arrive in the country at the end of January or in 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.
However, Bangladesh is not confirmed yet about the source of around one crore vaccines which is needed to cover the people as per plan of the government first phase of vaccination in a year. Health ministry sources said so far Bangladesh has signed an agreement with only one company to procure Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine.
The Serum Institute of India will provide 5 million vaccine (Covishield) a month as per the tripartite agreement.
The Serum will provide 30 million vaccines in six installments through Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd. The first consignment of 50 lakh vaccines may arrive on January 25 or 26, the health ministry said.
However, Bangladesh will also get vaccines from COVAX facility, the global initiative coordinated by the WHO, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).
In addition, Bangladesh is expecting that it will get around 7 crore vaccines from Covax facility as the country will get the vaccine for 20 per cent of its population like many other countries of the world.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Bangladesh will have to pay out the Gavi Covax vaccine price in a co-financing manner while the cost for each shot from the Gavi arrangement has been estimated at $1.60 to $2.
“If more vaccines are needed after receiving the prescribed 20 per cent from Gavi, we will procure them at more than $2. We plan to purchase 40 per cent of the vaccine from Gavi," Prof Dr Meerjadey Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the DGHS, told a recent programme.
As part of the Covax facility, Bangladesh is going to get eight lakh Pfizer vaccines for four lakh people.