The third shipment of the Covid-19 vaccine from India's Serum Institute is now uncertain as the neighbouring country has halted the export of the vaccine, saying it would focus on domestic vaccination programmes following a spike in virus cases there.
India on Wednesday night announced to halt all exports of the coronavirus vaccine.
Indian Foreign Ministry sources told the BBC that the rising cases meant domestic demand was expected to pick up in the coming weeks, and so the doses were needed for India's own rollout.
As a result, confusion has arisen over continuation of the first dose of the vaccine in Bangladesh. The government is now giving more importance to giving the second dose of the vaccine.
Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director General (DG) Prof ABM Khurshid Alam told The Business Standard, "We hope there will be no problem in continuing the first dose. But we need to keep enough vaccines in stock for the second dose."
Giving the second dose of vaccine is scheduled to start from 8 April. The previous plan was to continue giving the second dose as well as the first dose simultaneously.
The DG also said the vaccine supplier Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited has not officially informed the government regarding the vaccine supply halt yet.
Professor Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of DGHS, told The Business Standard, "Officially we do not know yet whether India has imposed any ban on vaccine exports. We are supposed to get the vaccine from two sources, through buying and through Covax. None of the sources has told us anything yet."
Meerjady said, "We started a vaccination campaign after securing the second dose. Continuing the first dose does not depend on availability of vaccine only. It also depends on several other issues, including the coming Ramadan and increasing infection. We have not yet made a final decision on what to do. We are micro-planning them. However, no decision has been made yet to stop the first dose. According to our previous decision, the second dose of vaccine will be given from 8 April."
Bangladesh has already administered over 51 lakh doses, out of 90 lakh, till date.
The DG health further said, "Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will bring 12 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift tomorrow during his Dhaka visit. A special flight from India's Mumbai carrying the vaccines is expected to land at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on 26 March."
As per a deal with India's Serum Institute and Beximco, the Bangladesh government was supposed to get 50 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine every month. Bangladesh has received two shipments of 70 lakh doses so far.
Apart from that, a consignment of 20 lakh doses as gifted from India reached Dhaka on 21 January.
With these doses, a countrywide vaccination drive began on 7 February to immunise people against Covid-19.
New cases, deaths and infection rate, all indicators on the rise
Bangladesh on Thursday again saw a spike in daily Covid-19 cases as the country detected 3,587 infections in 24 hours which is 20 more than yesterday's figure.
Meanwhile, 34 people succumbed to the disease during the same period. This is the highest number of deaths recorded in a day since 20 December last year when 38 people lost their lives in a day.
The total cases in the country now stand at 584,395 and the death tally is 8,797.
The daily infection rate for Thursday is 13.26% which is higher than the recorded rate for Wednesday. Bangladesh saw a 12.97% infection rate among the tested population yesterday.
Across 219 labs, 27,045 samples were tested during the same period. So far, Bangladesh has tested 4,514,731 people since March 2020.
Bangladesh saw its highest infection rate of 31.91% on 3 August last year. At least 1,356 new cases were reported after testing 4,249 samples on that day.
The number of tests and new case detections started to decline in the first week of July last year and the fall continued till the first week of March this year.
However, Covid-19 infections and deaths rose steeply in the country from 10 March and eventually jumped to the second highest single-day cases again on Thursday.
A press release of the Directorate General of Health Services also reported that some 1,985 patients were declared free of the virus in the last 24 hours, raising the total number of recoveries to 529,894 with a 90.67% recovery rate.