Bangladesh is preparing to get the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine – through Covax – and will reply to Covax's letter before 18 January, said two senior officials of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
Covax wrote to the Bangladeshi authorities on 6 January, asking if the latter was interested in receiving the Pfizer vaccine. It said Bangladesh would have to reply by 18 January to get the vaccine.
The letter also said a small quantity of the vaccine will be provided at the end of January or in February.
Between 19 and 28 January, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund, or Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, will assess the expressions of interest and infrastructure of the countries concerned. It will finalise the vaccine distribution plan by 29 January and notify the member countries.
Dr M Mushtuq Husain, a member of the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for Covid-19 Vaccines in Bangladesh, told The Business Standard the Pfizer vaccine has to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
That is why storing and distributing it will be a big challenge for Bangladesh, he said.
"Preparations are underway to maintain the cold chain and transport of the vaccine. Information on this will be given along with replying to the Covax letter to express Bangladesh's interest in receiving the Pfizer vaccine," he added.
Dr Mushtuq, also an advisor to the IEDCR, said a limited amount of the Pfizer vaccine will be available from Covax, and it will be given to healthcare workers.
The vaccine may be stored in Dhaka due to cold chain problems, he added.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the IEDCR, told The Business Standard that Bangladesh will not miss the opportunity to get the Pfizer vaccine from Covax.
Initially, the vaccine will be given to 0.4% of the Bangladeshi population.
So far, the WHO has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to immunise people against Covid-19. It gave its approval on 1 January.
On 11 December last year, the US Food and Drug Administration authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech novel coronavirus vaccine for emergency use.
The Pfizer vaccine has shown 95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 infection.