The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Covid-19 vaccine purchases next week. The meeting will also decide whether China-based Sinovac would be allowed to conduct trial runs of their shots in Bangladesh, said Health Minister Zahid Maleque Wednesday.
Meantime, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal at the Cabinet Committee Meeting on Government Purchase promised the health minister about vaccine financing on demand.
Kamal, who presided over the meeting, informed the press that he told the health minister not to bank on any single source for the vaccine supply.
To obtain Covid-19 vaccine as soon as the world invents one, many countries have already signed deals in advance with the Oxford University and US based biotech company Moderna – two promising researchers on coronavirus shots.
Currently 200 organizations and research firms are working globally on Covid-19 vaccine development and industrial-scale production. Of them, Oxford University of London, Chinese Sinovac, US Moderna and Australia's Murdoch Children's Research Institute have begun human trials.
Total six vaccines are now at level-3 trail while Russia approved its vaccine last Tuesday.
Many countries are signing agreements with the biotech companies and paying in advance so that they can get the shots if the vaccines succeed. However, Bangladesh is yet to strike such any vaccine deal.
At the Cabinet Committee Meeting on Government Purchase Wednesday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the meeting with the premier would also decide whether China will be approved to conduct vaccine trials in Bangladesh. The meeting will decide on advance payment too.
If the meeting's participants give Chinese trials the go-ahead, then Bangladesh will discuss the size of the trial population, other conditions and how much China will pay Bangladesh for the trial, said the minister.
The health minister said the World Health Organization (WHO) is also continuing discussions with biotech companies so that three percent of people worldwide, who are more susceptible to the virus, can be provided with the vaccine. The organisation aims at raising the number of vaccine recipients to 20 percent globally by next March 20.
At the meeting Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, "An Indian company has signed a deal for the Oxford vaccine. If we cannot reach Oxford directly, we can go for a contract at least with the Indian company."
We must try to get it as Russia has already approved its vaccine, he added.
While bidding farewell to a Dhaka-visiting Chinese team at Dhaka airport in last June, Zahid Maleque told the press that Bangladesh would get priority in terms of cooperation and support if China can successfully develop coronavirus vaccine.
Sinovac was to conduct its clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccine at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) in the first week of August. The Bangladesh Medical research Council also approved the trial.
Later, the trial saw complexity as the health minister said decision between the two states might take some time. Health ministry officials said they were yet to receive the official proposal from China for the trials.
Against such backdrop, Bangladesh switched to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) which would buy 2 billion doses of finally approved Covid-19 shots.
"This means 4 crore people in Bangladesh will get Covid-19 shots as Gavi would provide 20-23 percent world population with the dozes," said Shamsul Alam, director of the health directorate's maternal nutrition and child healthcare programme.
He said, "We have sent the expression of interest to the Gavi on July 9. There will a series of meeting until September whether Bangladesh would get the dozes free of cost."