Preparations have started in the country for Covid-19 vaccination, as a consignment of Covishield vaccines, "gift" from India, reached Dhaka on Thursday morning.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday thanked her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for giving Bangladesh 20 lakh shots of the vaccine.
"I am thanking Prime Minister Narendra Modi for sending the vaccine as a gift," she said in a virtual address at an international conference on the birth centenary of Dhaka University.
The prime minister also hoped that the vaccine that Bangladesh procured from India will arrive by 25-26 January as scheduled, reports UNB.
She said the government has already planned how it will proceed with the vaccine. "We've taken all the steps to face the Covid-19 situation in the country," she said, expressing hope that Bangladesh will get rid of the Covid-19.
Officials of the Directorate of Health spent busy time all the day long, planning on vaccine storage and vaccination.
Civil surgeons across the country have been given instructions about vaccination. Initiatives have been taken to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the vaccine storehouses.
Now all are waiting for instructions from the prime minister to begin the vaccination programme.
Earlier on the day, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Vikram Kumar Doraiswami handed over 20 lakh doses of the Covishield vaccine to Bangladesh in a programme at the state guest house Padma, hours after the jabs arrived in Dhaka.
The consignment of 20 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, gifted by India, arrived at Dhaka Airport by air cargo around 11:20am.
The Indian envoy handed over the first box of the vaccine to Health Minister Zahid Maleque and Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen.
Addressing the gathering at the gifting ceremony, High Commissioner VikramDoraiswami said that in line with the discussions held during the virtual summit between Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, India has delivered the vaccines within a week of the vaccine roll-out in India (which had begun on 16 January).
Doraiswami said, "This is a gift to our neighbour as a complement. India and Bangladesh will work together against the disease."
He said that as part of the neighbourhood first policy, India accords high priority to India- Bangladesh relationship. The bilateral relations will be strengthened further.
The high commissioner further said that 21 January is a landmark day as the arrival of the vaccines – for the very first time in Bangladesh will support Bangladesh's own efforts against Covid-19. India, as a committed partner of Bangladesh is delighted to have been able to contribute to this historic moment.
VK Doraiswami said, "This is a gift to our neighbour as a complement. India and Bangladesh will work together against the disease.
"Our bilateral relations will be strengthened further."
After receiving the vaccines, Health Minister Zahid Maleque termed the jabs as proof of the friendship between the two neighbouring countries.
"We are very happy that 20 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine have arrived here. India helped us during the Liberation War and now they are helping us again during the pandemic," the minister said in the vaccine handover programme.
"This vaccine has proved the true friendship between Bangladesh and India. We will fight against any disaster together."
The minister also requested the Indian government to implement the deal for 3 crore doses of the vaccine soon.
"We will have 70 lakh doses of the vaccine in our stock this month," the minister added.
Zahid Maleque urged all to refrain from spreading rumours over the vaccine, as it is one of the lifesaving tools.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will join the inauguration of the vaccination programme through videoconferencing.
Civil surgeons get instructions on vaccination
Senior officials of the health ministry and the health directorate instructed civil surgeons of all 64 districts of the country about the vaccination programme, at a hotel in the capital on Thursday afternoon.
Dr Abu Hussain Md Moinul, civil surgeon of Dhaka, told the Business Standard that the coronavirus vaccine is now kept at the store of the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) in Tejgaon, Dhaka.
"The health secretary and the director general of the directorate have instructed the civil surgeons on how to preserve the vaccines after they are sent to the districts. We have been given the idea that vaccination can be started by vaccinating a few people in Dhaka on 27 or 28 January."
Meanwhile, the power division has taken an initiative to ensure uninterrupted power supply to the vaccine storage facilities across the country.
State Minister of Power Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid on Thursday held a virtual meeting with the electricity supplying utilities and directed them to take necessary steps to supply uninterrupted electricity at the vaccine storages.
Apart from regular sources of electricity supply, he urged them to have an alternative arrangement including a generator facility.
Local company JMI to supply vaccine syringes
The government is going to buy 3.3 crore AD Syringe 0.5 ml from JMI Syringes and Medical Devices Limited for Covid-19 vaccination. The information came from a work order signed by Shamsul Haque, director of the health directorate and line director of the EPI, on Thursday.
JMI has to supply these syringes in five instalments as per the work order. In the first phase, it has been asked to supply 66 lakh syringes by 31 January. After that, the company has to supply the remaining syringes in 4 phases till 20 June.
According to sources, the government will spend Tk17.82 crore to buy the syringes for Tk5.40 each.
Bharat Biotech seeks Bangladesh trial for Covid vaccine
India's Bharat Biotech has applied to conduct trials in Bangladesh for its coronavirus vaccine recently approved for emergency use at home, said a senior official at Bangladesh's main medical research body, reports Reuters.
If allowed to go ahead, this would be the first trial of any coronavirus vaccine in Bangladesh and could give the densely-populated country of more than 160 million faster access to the shot for mass use.
The vaccine, developed with the Indian Council of Medical Research, was given the green light for restricted use in India this month without any efficacy data from a late-stage trial. Early tests, however, found it to be safe and generating an immune response in humans.
"We have received their proposal," said Mahmood-uz-Jahan, a director at the state-run Bangladesh Medical Research Council, adding that its ethics committee would review the application.
The Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B), has applied to run the trial on behalf of Bharat Biotech, said a source with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named citing internal rules.
ICDDR,B declined to comment. Spokespeople for Bharat Biotech had no immediate comment.