Bangladesh will get Covid-19 vaccine at the beginning of January, said Health Minister Zahid Maleque.
The minister made the disclosure on Thursday while speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the nationwide Measles-Rubella Vaccination Campaign-2020 from 12 December at the Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons auditorium in the capital.
"We hope to get vaccine in the first quarter of next month. We have made arrangements with Beximco Pharmaceuticals to bring the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Bangladesh through the Serum Institute of India. The government is bringing 3 crore doses of vaccine directly," he said.
He said the World Health Organisation will allocate vaccines at a rate of 20% of the country's population.
"It may take some time for that to arrive. But we will get a vaccine. There are many countries around us who have not yet been able to arrange vaccines. We have no shortage of money for vaccination. The World Bank has also made a commitment to finance us," he added.
The health minister also said the average life expectancy of Bangladeshis is increasing due to vaccines and the risk of infant and mothers' death is decreasing. Around 90% of the country's children have been brought under vaccination programmes.
At the event, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan also said the government is all set to get the novel coronavirus vaccine.
"We have already been able to secure vaccines for 4.5 crore people. Wearing masks is the only way to stay safe until those arrive," he added.
However, Beximco Pharmaceuticals could not confirm when the vaccine will be available.
Speaking with The Business Standard, Beximco Pharma's Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza said the Serum Institute has applied to Indian government for approval of the Oxford vaccine. It may take about two more weeks to get approval in India. Then the Serum Institute will seek approval from the WHO for emergency authorisation.
"Therefore, it is not possible to say as to when the vaccine will arrive at our country before applying for WHO approval," added Rabbur Reza.
The measles-rubella vaccination programme will start next Saturday and will continue till 24 January 2021.
Under this programme, about 34 million children aged between 9 months and 10 years will be vaccinated in one dose.
Vaccination will be conducted daily from 8am to 4pm, except on weekends.