Waiting for the second jab
- Around 58.2 lakh took the 1st dose of Covid-19 vaccine
- Only 42.4 lakh managed to get the 2nd shot
- More than 15 lakh facing uncertainty over 2nd doses
- China's gift of 6 lakh doses will arrive on 13 June
- USA, Australia recently assured of providing doses
- But these countries gave no further details so far
- Formal announcement over vaccine coproduction soon
- Bangladesh seeking easy-to-store vaccines from Covax
Bangladesh reached out to several countries to procure enough doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to cover the deficit in second doses here. All of them gave assurances of more vaccines, but none delivered so far, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has said.
The USA recently assured Bangladesh of providing more doses, but it did not give further details on when it will be available. Besides, China's gift of six lakh Covid-19 vaccines will arrive in Bangladesh on 13 June, Momen added while speaking at a programme in the capital on Thursday.
After handing over medicines to Palestinian Ambassador in Dhaka Yousef SY Ramadan on behalf of the Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries at the event, he said, "Around 58.2 lakh people took the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, but only 42.4 lakh got the second shot.
"So, more than 15 lakh people in the country are now facing uncertainty over getting their second doses."
Momen continued, "After learning that the USA has spare doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, we immediately sent a request. But they informed us that Bangladesh is currently not on the priority list, because we have a relatively lower rate of Covid-19 deaths compared to others.
"The USA later said they will give us Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses, but they did not say when. We are optimistic about getting the doses from this country. Recently, 1,654 Bangladeshi-Americans submitted a petition to the White House about the issue."
Quoting a recent report, the minister said, "Australia has a population of 25 million, and they procured 93.8 million doses of the vaccine. We requested them for more doses and they have agreed to provide those. But we are yet to receive any vaccines from them."
Momen mentioned that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been providing the Awami League party with vaccines and personal protective equipment.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Robert Miller recently said Bangladesh will soon get a shipment of Covid-19 vaccines provided by the USA under the Covax initiative.
Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as Covax, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.
'Formal announcement over vaccine coproduction soon'
The government will hopefully be able to make a formal announcement soon regarding vaccine co-production in Bangladesh, as negotiations in this regard have progressed, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said at the event.
He continued, "But it is up to them [the vaccine-manufacturing countries] to select the local pharmaceutical companies for vaccine coproduction here. They will visit Bangladesh, conduct necessary inspection to determine our capacity and provide co-production facilities.
"There will be no vaccine crisis in Bangladesh once co-production begins. I am optimistic that we will become vaccine exporters after meeting our domestic demand."
Commenting on the misunderstanding with China over price disclosure, Momen said the issue has been sorted out after Bangladesh acknowledged the unintentional mistake.
"There are many confidentialities in business and we – the government – is just a facilitator. We should abide by the law. Bangladesh is in a very good position in terms of discussions with China."
The foreign minister added that he is going to the US soon to attend two important events – one on the Rohingya issue and another for the 5th LDC Summit at the United Nations headquarters.
Bangladesh Association of Pharmaceutical Industries' Secretary General SM Shafiuzzaman was present at the programme among others. The association donated 1,400 kgs of medicine worth Tk40 lakh to Palestine. Bangladesh had previously made such donations a number of times.
'Bangladesh seeks easy to store vaccines from Covax'
Bangladesh has asked Covax for easy-to-store vaccines that are suitable for the country's climate and easily transportable too, said ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Speaking to the media on Thursday, Khurshid continued, "Distributed by Covax, the Pfizer vaccine must be stored at -70 to -80 degrees Celsius, while Moderna vaccine must be kept at -80 degrees Celsius.
"We are storing the Pfizer vaccine at -70 degrees Celsius. The vaccine must be mixed with a diluent to make shots. Such requirements are causing a lot of issues for us. A vaccine that needs to be kept under -80 degrees Celsius is difficult to distribute at the rural level."
Covax assured of providing more than six crore doses of vaccine to Bangladesh. Of those, the country received 1.62 lakh doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on 1 June.
The DGHS believes that China's Sinopharm and Sinovac, Russia's Sputnik V and USA's Johnson and Johnson vaccines are more suitable for Bangladesh.
On the issue, the DGHS director general said, "We have requested them not to send us any vaccine which will be difficult for us to store. Bangladesh will need a lot of money to maintain the cold chain, who will pay the expenses?
"We have already spoken with Covax about these issues. Soon we will send a letter to them mentioning our expectations about the vaccines.