Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday said that Bangladesh will reach an agreement with a manufacturer within the next two-to-four days to purchase Covid-19 vaccines for the country.
The minister made the remark at a programme in Manikganj, but he did not mention with which company Bangladesh is making the agreement.
When approached, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan and Directorate General of Health Services' Director General Prof Khurshid Alam did not provide any further details about the upcoming deal.
However, the health secretary said the government is currently in touch with the Oxford Vaccine Group over the matter.
Addressing the event, Maleque further said, "We are making a serious effort to get [novel] coronavirus vaccines. When the vaccines are developed, we will bring the good quality ones to Bangladesh. Research is going on across the globe and we are maintaining contact with them."
"Not everyone will get Covid-19 vaccines at the same time. We will be able to provide vaccines to a limited number of people in the first phase and everyone else will get the vaccine in the second phase," he continued.
The minister added, "The novel coronavirus will not just disappear after we get the vaccine. Afterwards, we will have to follow all health guidelines, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing measures."
The Business Standard attempted to contact the health minister on phone for details about the company Bangladesh is making the vaccine deal with, but he could not be reached till the filing of this report.
Commenting on the matter, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said, "I do not know what company Health Minister Zahid Maleque meant when he mentioned the upcoming vaccine deal. Because the minister mentioned the agreement, details will surely come out within the next two-to-four days."
"We have been in contact with Oxford over the matter. So, it could very well be them," he added.
The DGHS' Director General Prof Khurshid Alam said, "We have contacted a number of countries about the Covid-19 vaccine. However, I do not know whether any agreement has been finalised with any of them."
Earlier, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd announced that it had signed a Covid-19 vaccine deal with the Serum Institute of India to ensure that Bangladesh gets priority access to the Indian drug manufacturer's potential vaccine.
The health ministry recently prepared a proposal for the government to buy Oxford University's Covid-19 vaccine at $5 per dose, which Beximco Pharmaceuticals will buy from the Indian manufacturer Serum Institute for $4.
The ministry already sent its proposal to the Prime Minister's Office for approval. In the initial six months of the first phase, the Serum Institute will supply three crore doses of the Covidshield vaccine to Bangladesh, the proposal says.
Beximco will get $1 per dose from the government for the vaccine's import, preservation and management costs. In this way, the government will have to spend $5 per dose, it also said.
When contacted, the Beximco authorities declined to comment on the matter as no formal announcement has been made about any possible deal between the Bangladesh government and Oxford.