Bangladesh will make 50% of its payment for the total purchase price of $120 million to the Serum Institute of India – in a day or two – to purchase three crore doses of the Oxford vaccine, according to sources at the health directorate and Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
The remaining 50% of the price will be paid once the Directorate General of Drug Administration gives its approval, they added.
Professor ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told The Business Standard that DGHS plans to pay the bank guarantee to the account of the Serum Institute soon.
Beximco Pharma's Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza echoed this.
He said the Serum Institute on Thursday handed over the papers of the bank guarantee to the Bangladesh government against the advance payment. "The government will deposit 50% of the total purchase price in Serum's bank account on Sunday or Monday as per the agreement. The remaining 50% will be paid before the vaccine is brought."
Meanwhile, Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday said each shot of the Covid-19 vaccine will be available in the country at a cost of around Tk425.
"The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be available at a maximum cost of $5 [Tk425]," he said while addressing a view exchange programme in Manikganj, reports Somoy TV.
The minister also expressed his hope that the first consignment containing 50 lakh shots of the vaccine will reach the country this month.
According to an agreement signed among the Bangladesh government, the Serum Institute and Beximco Pharmaceuticals, on 5 November this year, if the Serum Institute cannot hand over the vaccine by next June, the advance payment will be refunded to Bangladesh.
According to the agreement, Serum will provide 50 lakh vaccine doses per month to Bangladesh through Beximco in the initial six months of the first phase.
So far, all the vaccines used in the Expanded Program on Immunisation in Bangladesh have been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Asked if the novel coronavirus vaccine would be used before the WHO's approval, ABM Khurshid Alam said the novel coronavirus vaccine is being used in many countries around the world without the WHO's approval.
"Further, according to the rules, if one of the seven countries of the European Union approves the vaccine, there is no problem with using it in our country. However, the use of the vaccines in our country requires the approval of the Directorate General of Drug Administration."
The Oxford vaccine will arrive in the country at the end of January or in the first week of February this year, Khurshid Alam said.
"Our preparations for vaccination are ongoing. Field work will be completed this week. But the challenge for us is that the lists of people to be vaccinated are not finished yet. In particular, the lists of journalists and local people's representatives have not been prepared yet."
He said the Management Information System (MIS) department, access to information (A2I) and safety programme of the health directorate are working to compile the lists of vaccine candidates.
After the United Kingdom (UK), India's expert panel on Friday also approved the use of the Oxford vaccine. On Saturday, a dry run of Covid-19 vaccinations was held in 259 centers in 116 districts of India.
Beximco authorities have already submitted the necessary data to the drug administration directorate for the approval of the Oxford vaccine in Bangladesh.
Rabbur Reza said, "The Drugs Controller General of India will approve the Oxford vaccine by Monday."
"We will submit India's letter of approval to the drug administration so that a no objection certificate can be obtained as soon as possible. However, the vaccine is expected to arrive in the country by the end of January. It is expected that the WHO also will approve the vaccine by this time," he added.
After the vaccine arrives in Bangladesh, Beximco will initially use its own cold chain system to store the doses. Later, the company will deliver the vaccine to designated state-owned warehouses. Vaccination will be done through the government's EPI programme.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration's Spokesperson Ayub Hossain told The Business Standard, "Since the Oxford vaccine has been approved in the UK and India, our expert committee will now look into the issue of approving the vaccine in Bangladesh as per our policy. As a regulatory authority, we will decide based on the recommendations of the expert committee."