Two Bangladeshi organisations-- Janata Traders and Radiant Pharmaceuticals Ltd – intend to import Pfizer's Covid vaccine once the American drug maker starts rolling out shots for private sale.
It will be easy to get permission from the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) since the World Health Organization has already approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, said officials at the DGDA.
As of now, Pfizer Inc. has a policy of supplying vaccine doses through the government channel only.
Both Janata Traders and Radiant Pharmaceuticals Ltd are local distributors of Pfizer's products. They have already begun talks with the US pharmaceutical company on importing the vaccine.
"As a distributor of Pfizer for the last 25 years, we are in regular talks with the American company", said AKM Rajibur Rahman, general manager of Janata Traders.
However, Pfizer is yet to decide on a distribution of the Covid vaccine through private companies. "If it takes such a move, we may get priority," Rajibur said.
Nasser Shahrear Zahedee, chairman of Radiant Pharmaceuticals, shared similar thoughts with The Business Standard.
If the importers can bring in the Pfizer vaccine, they will have to have a cold chain system in place to store the doses at a freezing temperature of -70 degrees Celsius. They have begun communicating with some foreign companies to that end.
Shahrear said his company has contacted some companies on the purchase of refrigerators that can maintain the temperature.
"We will be able to set up the facility required in a very short time. We have done our homework," he added.
So far, Pfizer's is the only vaccine approved by the WHO for immunization against Covid-19. About three weeks before the WHO approval, the US Food and Drug Administration on 11 December authorized the vaccine for emergency use.
The jab showed 95% efficacy at preventing symptomatic Covid infections.
As per the country's law, if a vaccine is approved by WHO or USFDA, it can easily be registered for use in Bangladesh, Shahrear said.
"We want to bring in the shots for the betterment of Bangladesh's people. Then those may be administered at hospitals, clinics or through EPI [Expanded Programme on Immunization of the health directorate]."
DGDA spokesperson Ayub Hossain told The Business Standard that if any organisation having the expertise applies for approval to import the Pfizer vaccine, "we will consider that as it has been approved by WHO".
The drug administration will, however, prevent any unethical business from affecting the vaccine, he added.
Bangladesh has so far contacted India's Serum Institute to bring in the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine through Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd, which can be stored at -2 to -6 degress Celsius.
Besides, Bangladesh is relying on the Covax vaccine. At the end of January or the beginning of February, 5 million doses of the Oxford vaccine will arrive in the country in the first phase.