The Covid-19 pandemic, which began in early 2020, is not over yet. However, the intensity of the catastrophe has decreased to a large extent worldwide since the beginning of 2022 compared to 2020 and 2021. Since the Omicron variant of the Corona has affected most people in the world with a low severity rate, a kind of immunity (security system) has been developed among the people. In addition, the number of deaths and hospitalisations was lower among the infected people because the Omicron was not as strong as the Delta and other variants.
However, in 2020, when Corona was wreaking havoc around the world, and the various developed countries of the world were struggling to cope with the negative effects of the lethal virus in the economic and health sectors, most people around the world were desperately looking at the public health experts and researchers. During that time, the researchers, with the help of various companies, were trying hard to develop vaccines for Corona. Exactly one year later, various companies made arrangements to market the vaccine of Covid-19. At the beginning of 2021, this vaccination program was started in different countries. At that time, there was a concern among the people of Bangladesh as to whether the government of Bangladesh could ensure the availability of the vaccine for its citizens.
During the early days of vaccination, a smear campaign was set out to embarrass the government. Many groups intentionally aired different propaganda about vaccines. Even different political groups disseminated fake messages to discourage people from taking vaccines. However, their ill motives have not been attained. The government has managed to overcome all those hurdles to make the vaccination programme a success.
One of the major contributors to this success is the Hon'ble Prime Minister's visionary leadership in understanding the essence of vaccines. As soon as the vaccine was discovered and its marketing started, the Prime Minister directed the concerned department to procure a sufficient quantity of vaccine for the country's population. As per her instructions, the Ministry of Health signed an agreement to purchase three 30 million vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India, providing advance payment. The Serum Institute started sending vaccines as per the terms of the contract. At the same time, the Government of India gifted about 3.2 million doses of vaccine to the people of Bangladesh. With these vaccines, the vaccination process started in the country at the beginning of 2021. But in the middle of 2021, when the COVID situation in India deteriorated due to the Delta variant, the Government of India imposed a ban on the export of vaccines. Therefore, vaccination activities in Bangladesh were almost stopped. At that time, no one could have imagined that the government of Bangladesh would be able to provide adequate vaccines to its citizens organising from other sources than India.
The Hon'ble Prime Minister once again proved that if the objective is honest, then no obstacle can hinder the achievement of any greater objective. And for this reason, when the Bangladesh government purchased a large quantity of vaccine from Chinese Synopharma under the direction of the Prime Minister, the vaccination program was resumed. Later on, a huge amount of vaccines were brought to the country from other sources and given to the people by the government.
The second contributing factor was the success of vaccine diplomacy of the government. Sheikh Hasina's government's remarkable diplomatic success has helped Bangladesh obtain a large number of vaccines under COVAX. It is to be noted that COVAX is a platform developed by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, led by the World Health Organization. It was created to ensure that people worldwide have access to the antidote for infectious diseases. Bangladesh has received the highest number of vaccines under the COVAX among the underdeveloped and developing countries due to the strong diplomacy of the government. Since various developed countries have provided a huge quantity of vaccines to Bangladesh, the government has been able to bring almost all the people under the vaccine. Initially, the vaccination process was started with the older population, but later the government brought all those above 18 years of age under the vaccine. Even Pfizer's vaccination programme for children between 12 and 17 has been almost completed. Almost all students of this age in all educational institutions in Bangladesh have already received at least one dose of vaccine.
The third factor that plays an important role in ensuring the supply of vaccines is the government's economic condition. The government has had to spend huge sums of money to buy vaccines. This would not have been possible if the country's economy had not been on solid footing. If we had thought about the economic situation 13 years ago, it would not have been possible for the government of Bangladesh to allocate such a gigantic amount of money to purchase vaccines. Along with the capacity, the head of government must have the mentality to spend money for the welfare of the people. Judging from this context, it goes without saying that the Hon'ble Prime Minister paid serious consideration to ensure the people's health safety. The prior experience of the health department in carrying out our mass immunisation programme has also helped them carry out this mammoth task quite successfully. The ministry of health deserves appreciation for its efforts.
The author is a Professor of Public
Administration at the University of