The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will lend Bangladesh $940 million more as budgetary support to manufacture Covid vaccines locally and purchase booster shots, according to Economic Relations Division (ERD) officials.
They said the regional lender had nodded the amount initially as Bangladesh received $940 million from ADB early this fiscal year to buy Covid-19 shots that are now being used in the nationwide immunisation campaign.
"The major portion of the loan, $500 million, will be spent to produce vaccines at state-run Essential Drugs Company Limited in Gopalganj," Dr Pear Mohammad, additional secretary and wing chief (ADB) of ERD, told The Business Standard.
Recently, US-based biotechnology company Dyadic International and Essential Drugs signed an agreement to produce vaccines in Gopalganj as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said several times that the government intends to set up an international vaccine institute here.
Of the ADB loan, Bangladesh will spend the remaining $440 million to buy booster shots from foreign manufacturers as new Covid variant Omicron fears slow global recovery, said Pear Mohammad.
ERD officials said the government held a meeting with ADB early this month to pursue the loan. To expedite the loan process, Health Service Division officials, also present at the meeting, were asked to submit a loan proposal by 9 December.
However, the division is yet to submit it.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque last week said the government will roll out the booster shots within 7-10 days. The minister said the country had crossed 32% of its vaccination target and had around 4.5 crore shots still in stock.
The country rolled out mass vaccination in February this year, prioritising citizens above 60 years old, people with co-morbidities and frontliners.
According to the health directorate, 6.78 crore people received at least one dose of Covid vaccines as of Wednesday and 26.5% of the population was fully vaccinated with two doses.
With the Omicron onslaught in many countries, the government recently announced booster shots for the elderly, at-risk group of people and the frontliners.
On 11 December, Bangladesh detected its first Omicron cases in two Bangladeshi women cricketers who returned from Zimbabwe.
Covid shots to be produced with a US formula
Recently, US-based biotechnology company Dyadic International and Bangladeshi Essential Drugs signed an agreement to produce vaccines in Gopalganj, confirmed Professor Ahmedul Kabir, additional director general at Health Services Division.
According to officials, if everything goes according to plan, the country might start producing protein vaccines within the next six months.
The Essential Drugs Gopalganj factory now produces antibiotics, iron pills, intravenous fluid and some birth control products. Though there is no equipment for making vaccines at the facility, it has enough factory space and also offers some vaccine production support there.
In November this year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the government is going to set up an international vaccine institute to produce vaccines, including for Covid-19, in Bangladesh.
Essential Drugs officials and experts say the government is now pursuing two options. One is to bottle vaccines at the factory after importing bulk vaccines, while the second plan is to establish a self-sufficient factory for vaccine production.
Professor Ahmedul Kabir, however, could not say when the facility would go into vaccine manufacturing or how much production capacity it would have.
WB too announces $93b replenishment package
The World Bank Thursday announced a $93 billion replenishment package of the International Development Association (IDA) to help low-income countries, including Bangladesh.
This fund will help countries respond to the Covid-19 crisis and build a greener, more resilient, and inclusive future as Omicron fears have trimmed the growth forecast for developing Asia for this year and next.
In its latest outlook published on Tuesday last week, the Asian Development Bank (ABD) forecast that the region's emerging economies would grow 7% in 2021 and 5.3% in 2022, down 0.1% from its previous estimate.
The bank cited a resurgence of Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant as the biggest risk to the region's recovery, with other dangers including a prolonged slowdown in China's housing market, rising inflation and global supply chain disruptions.