Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said that the first dose of the Chinese Covid-19 vaccine Sinopharm will be administered from 25 May in Bangladesh.
"We have talked to Russia, China, the UK and the USA for vaccines and got positive responses. We have communicated with India and the UK too for doses required to complete the second dose of those who got the first dose of AstraZeneca," said the minister at a briefing at the ministry on Monday.
"We ordered three crore doses but got only 70 lakh from India so far," he added.
On 12 May, a consignment of five lakh doses of Sinopharm vaccine, gifted by the government of China, arrived in Dhaka.
On the same day, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Spokesperson Nazmul Islam said that the doses would be provided to medical and nursing students and medical technologists, who directly come in contact with Covid-19 patients.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and a member of the Covid-19 Vaccination Core Committee, told The Business Standard, "Medical students will get the vaccine. Besides, the plan for who else will be vaccinated and in which centres has not been finalised yet."
During a briefing at the secretariat after a virtual cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday, Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam hoped that it would be possible to reopen educational institutions after vaccinating students.
"There has been a lot of discussion on opening schools and colleges. Around 40 of the hostels of universities or colleges have already been renovated. The vaccine is arriving soon. If we can vaccinate the students of universities and colleges, we will open those institutes," he said.
US exploring possibilities to produce vaccines in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has asked for four million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the United States. The United States is expected to formally respond to Bangladesh's request within a couple of days, said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam after a meeting with US Ambassador in Bangladesh Earl R Miller on Monday.
The state minister and the US ambassador discussed the ongoing cooperation between the two countries in combating the Covid-19 pandemic, including providing vaccines for meeting Bangladesh's immediate needs. The ambassador said that his government is working on this, and he has recommended having a regional approach in South Asia in distributing vaccines from the US.
He also said the US government is exploring the possibilities to produce American vaccines by Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies.
Lockdown extension depends on India's situation
The cabinet secretary said that whether or not the lockdown will be extended depends on the Covid-19 situation in India.
"The resumption of long-distance buses, trains and launches will also depend on the situation in India. We are keeping an eye on India. The number of infections and deaths in India has been declining in the last few days. We will observe the situation for another week and decide on the lockdown and public transport services," he said.
Border closure helped curb Indian variant's spread
Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said that the decision on border closure helped much to contain the spread of the deadly Indian variant of Covid-19 in Bangladesh.
"The Indian variant is too aggressive. It has been found in a few patients in Bangladesh too. But it could not spread much as the border with the neighbouring country was closed on time," the minister said at a briefing at his ministry on Monday.
Zahid further said, "We will advise keeping the border closed until India's situation returns to normalcy."
Meanwhile, the IEDCR has found six Covid-19 patients carrying the Indian variant. Three of them are members of the same family.
The government closed the border with India for 14 days, starting on 26 April, amid a surge in infections, but many Bangladeshis were allowed to enter the country with a Covid-19 negative report.
Later, the border closure was extended for two more weeks.
Bangladesh reports 32 deaths, 698 cases
Bangladesh reported 32 more Covid-19 deaths and 698 new cases in the last 24 hours till Monday 8am, according to the DGHS.
With the new figures, the country's Covid-19 death toll has reached 12,181 and the number of cases 780,857 since the detection of the first novel coronavirus cases on 8 March 2020.
The Covid-19 positivity rate in the past 24 hours was 6.75% after 10,347 samples were tested across the country.