With more and more people signing up every day to get the Covid-19 shots, Bangladesh is now facing a vaccine shortage of more than 1.5 crore doses.
The authorities say inoculating the people who already have completed the registration online and waiting for the jab has emerged as a monumental challenge to the government.
According to the health directorate, more than 3 crore citizens have registered for the vaccine so far. Only 1.44 crore have received their first dose as 48 lakh people have got both doses.
The government now has only 70 lakh shots including 17 lakh doses due on Tuesday night from Covax – a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, said they would get around 1 crore shots from Sinopharm and Covax within August. One crore more shots would also arrive in Dhaka in September too.
"But the supply would depend on global vaccine politics. We hope our vaccination will not face any trouble," he told The Business Standard Tuesday.
Professor Khurshid Alam also talked about immunising the elderly citizens and villagers first as the virus wave has been ripping through rural Bangladesh. But he said there has been no decision to prioritise the groups.
In another development Tuesday, the health directorate directed the inoculation centres to postpone the first dose of Moderna vaccine from 12 August in a bid to save shots for the second dose.
Administering the second dose of Moderna shot will have to start by pausing the first dose after 12 August, said a notice of the health directorate's Covid-19 vaccine taskforce.
It said, "Centres that will have surplus shots even after 12 August, will have to finish those fast to start the second dose." Besides, the second dose of Sinopharm will begin from 14 August across the country.
Of the total 70 lakh doses of vaccines now in Bangladesh's hand, around 24 lakh Moderna shots will be kept aside for the second dose. Current stock includes 33,000 Pfizer shots, 8 lakh Oxford-AstraZeneca shots and 30 lakh Sinopharm shots – mostly for the second dose.
In a six-day campaign from 7 August, Bangladesh targeted 32 lakh people to bring under mass immunisation. However, 47 lakh people in the first three days of the drive took the vaccines.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque Monday told journalists that Bangladesh would get 54 lakh doses of Sinopharm vaccine by 15 August. Dhaka also would get 50 lakh more Sinopharm shots in August as a gift under a bulk-buy agreement with Beijing.
The health minister said China would give 1 to 1.5 crore doses in September, 2.3 crore doses in October and 2.3 crore doses in November. He said there would be supplies from the Covax too.
"We are supposed to get 60 lakh Pfizer shots in September. Moreover, we hope India will resume the supply of our bulk-buy order. They, however, did not mention any date yet," he noted.
Bangladesh has so far received more than 2.73 crore shots, including purchase, gift and Covax supply.