The health ministry has started drawing up the list of those who will be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the first phase.
In this phase, doctors, nurses and health workers will be vaccinated first. Citizens aged above 60 will get vaccines then.
The government will procure the Covishield vaccine, developed jointly by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, from the Serum Institute of India through Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
In the first phase, Bangladesh will get three crore doses of vaccine from Serum.
The health ministry expects to receive 50 lakh doses every month from January 2021. Everyone will have to be vaccinated with two doses, meaning it will be possible to vaccinate 1.5 crore people in the first phase.
Health workers at the field level are preparing the list of vaccine recipients, and the Directorate General of Health Services is working in this regard.
The coordination committee in each upazila formed to compile the list has started microplanning. Health workers will go to each ward across the country and vaccinate those on the list according to schedules.
In addition, the health ministry is taking on a separate project to ensure proper management of the whole process, including ensuring a cold chain after purchasing vaccines, training health workers, and injecting vaccines.
The project will be implemented with money from the government's own funds as well as development partners, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The development partners have been asked to provide funds, and the development project proposal (DPP) has already been prepared, ministry officials said.
Additional Secretary (public health) to the health ministry Md Mostafa Kamal told The Business Standard that a project was being undertaken to maintain the cold chain of vaccines.
"In addition, the health directorate, through ward-level health workers, is compiling a list of those that will receive vaccines on a priority basis," he said.
He also said there would be no political influence in compiling the list.
Ministry officials said the health directorate had already compiled a list of government employees across the country with the help of civil surgeons. Work is now underway to compile a list of citizens over the age of 60. The list will be based on the date of birth mentioned in their national identity cards.
Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi, civil surgeon of Chattogram, told TBS, "A list containing the number of health workers in different hospitals of the district was sought from us last month. The list will also contain the number of teachers as well as administration and city corporation officials. The health directorate has not yet asked us to provide any list based on age groups."
After compiling the list and cross-checking it with the database of the Election Commission, a receipt will be given to each person mentioning the date and time of their vaccination.
Professor Nazrul Islam, a member of the government's technical advisory committee on Covid-19, said no one under the age of 18 would be vaccinated for now.
The government has signed a deal to buy three crore doses of vaccine from the Serum Institute of India through Beximco Pharmaceuticals in the first phase.
The finance ministry has already released a Tk635.77 crore fund, which is half the cost of three crore doses, to make an advance payment to Serum Institute.
A health ministry official told TBS that those working inside hospitals, including doctors, nurses, technicians and ward attendants, would be vaccinated first. Then, those over 60 would get it.
After that, vaccines would be given to members of different forces, including police, and officials of different government agencies as well as journalists working on the front line, the official added.
According to the health ministry, the number of health workers, including doctors and nurses, is around 10 lakh in the country.
As per July 2019 figures of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the number of people aged over 60 is 1.36 crore while that of government employees, including members of the police and the military, is about 22 lakh.
Cold chain to cost Tk318 crore
The health ministry estimates that it will cost $1.25 to ensure a cold chain for each dose of vaccine. It has received Tk100 crore after asking the finance ministry for Tk318 crore to ensure a cold chain for the three crore doses to be received in the first phase.
The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other development partners will fund the project being undertaken for implementation of cold chain management, procurement of necessary equipment, training of health workers and compilation of the list.
The World Bank has initially agreed to lend $500 million in this regard. The money will be given as additional funding for the ongoing $100 million Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness project, said Shahabuddin Patwary, additional secretary and head of the World Bank wing of the Economic Relations Division (ERD).
According to the World Bank's Dhaka office sources, the global lender will provide $500 million in budget assistance to Bangladesh in the current financial year. Of this, $250 million will come as the third installment for the ongoing Bangladesh Programmatic Jobs Development Policy Credit programme.
A new $250 million budget assistance is being negotiated under a new programme titled Bangladesh Programmatic Recovery and Resilience, the World Bank's Dhaka office sources added.
The money received in the form of budget support can be used for cold chain management, to buy vaccines and for any other work, Shahabuddin said.
Bangladesh has also sought $500 million in assistance from the ADB to buy vaccines.
Abdul Baki, additional secretary to the ERD, said the ADB had given initial approval for assistance but had not yet mentioned the amount.
ERD Joint Secretary Shahriar Kader Siddiky said he was hopeful about raising $500 million from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency each to buy vaccines.
In addition, $500 million has been sought from Germany and France, $250 million from each, in bilateral assistance, he added.