The government has revised its Covid-19 inoculation plan to raise the interval between two doses to eight weeks and widen the immunisation coverage to 60-70 lakh people in the first phase.
Dr Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce, told The Business Standard that they were preparing a guideline with the changes.
This is the fourth time the government has revised the plan.
According to the previous plan, Bangladesh was to inoculate 35 lakh people with a four-week interval between the two doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine.
But, as the vaccination turnout witnesses a gradual rise and the second consignment of vaccine is set to arrive in Bangladesh from India on 22 February, the target of vaccine receipts in the first phase has been revised.
Prof Abul Bashar Mohammed Khurshid Alam, director general of the health directorate, told the press Monday that both the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 and the World Health Organization suggested the eight-week interval for better effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine.
"For that reason, we have changed the interval," he added. However, dates for the second dose of the vaccine were set with a four-week interval for those who have already taken the first dose since the country rolled out the immunisation campaign on 7 February.
Prof Khurshid Alam said the recipients will get text messages with the changed dates.
In December last year, the government in its National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for Covid-19 Vaccines in Bangladesh said the interval between the doses will be four weeks. The plan, however, did not mention how many people will be immunised in the first phase.
In January, the health directorate said the interval will be eight weeks and 60 lakh people will be inoculated in the first phase. On 6 February, the immunisation target was lowered to 35 lakh with a four-week interval.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer of the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said the interval was set at four weeks in February due to two reasons.
"We were getting fewer registrations, while the first lot of the vaccine would expire in April. Therefore, we set the interval at four weeks," he noted.
"But as more and more people are coming to get vaccinated, and we also have more shots in the pipeline, the interval has been raised," Dr Alamgir said. The IEDCR official said the revised plan will help the government bring more people under the mass vaccination campaign, and maintain the WHO suggestions at the same time too.
On 10 February, WHO recommended extending the time between the first and second dose of the vaccine to improve efficacy.
"In light of the observation that two-dose efficacy and immunogenicity increase with a longer inter-dose interval, WHO recommends an interval of eight to 12 weeks between the doses," it said.
Bangladesh vaccinated 226,678 people on Monday – the 9th day of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive – raising the inoculation tally to 1,132,711 people so far. In the capital, 29,055 people received their first shot of the vaccine Monday.
The health directorate said the vaccine turnout is increasing everyday as at least 20.30 lakh people registered until 6.35pm Monday.
The vaccination drive is being carried out at 1,015 hospitals across the country including 48 in the capital.
20-30 lakh more doses to arrive on Feb 22: Beximco
Around 20-30 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in Bangladesh on February 22, said Nazmul Hassan Papon, the managing director of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, Monday.
Papon revealed the information while talking to reporters after taking the vaccine at Kurmitola General Hospital.
"No initiative has been taken yet to bring Covid-19 vaccine under private arrangements as the government is providing vaccine to everyone for free. So, there is no need to bring vaccines under private arrangement now," he said.
The 2nd consignment of vaccine will arrive under the agreement Bangladesh signed with the Serum Institute of India through Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd.
On 25 January, Bangladesh received the first consignment of 50 lakh doses of Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India.
On 21 January, Dhaka received 20 lakh doses of Covid vaccine as the Indian government sent the shots as a gift to Bangladesh.
On 5 November last year, the health ministry signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding with the Serum Institute and Beximco to import the vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca.
The country purchased three crore doses of the vaccine from Serum. The company will deliver the shots over six months – 50 lakh doses a month.