Bangladesh's vaccination plan may change when vaccines of different companies are available, said officials.
So far, only the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been used in Bangladesh, but the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will arrive in the country by 10 May.
The Pfizer vaccine may also arrive from Covax this month. The government is also trying to buy Russian vaccines.
Experts are urging the government to focus on vaccine management right now because the doses of different vaccines vary and the required logistic support is different too.
Professor Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard that different types of vaccines require more management skills because the cold chain of each vaccine is different and the dosage varies. Preparations are needed immediately.
He said centres have to be designated for different types of vaccines. There is a risk of making a mistake if you keep vaccines from different companies at the same centre.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, an adviser at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, told TBS that preferring a specific vaccine will create problems. People registered to a centre, to be fixed through a lottery, will get the vaccine available there. We have to plan for that now to make sure everyone gets the vaccine.
However, no decision has yet been made on how the vaccination will be administered.
Regarding this issue, Dr Shamsul Haque, secretary general of Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce Committee, told TBS, "Vaccination activities are going on as per the previous plan. Once the vaccines are available, the plan may change. The Technical Committee on Vaccine Management and Planning is working on various issues."
It is not yet confirmed when the vaccines of different companies will arrive, he added.
The nationwide vaccination started on 7 February with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced at the Serum Institute of India. The second dose of vaccination began on 8 April. The first dose of the vaccine has been temporarily suspended due to uncertainty over the arrival of the vaccine from India.
"People who registered for the first dose but have not received it yet, will get it after the new shipment of vaccine arrives," said Prof Dr Md Nazmul Islam, spokesperson, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
A shipment of five lakh doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will arrive in Bangladesh on 10 May.
"The vaccine will be transported to the country on our ship. Discussion is underway on the prices and number of doses to be purchased from the new sources," Health Minister Zahid Maleque told the media in a briefing at the secretariat on Monday.
After the Chinese vaccine arrives in Bangladesh, it will first be applied to 1,000 people and monitored for a week. The Sinopharm vaccine will then be used in the mass immunisation programme. The two-dose vaccine will be applied at intervals of 28 days.
Renata Pharmaceuticals, a Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company, wants to bring Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and it has already applied to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) for the import of two vaccines to Bangladesh.
However, Renata officials said the issue of vaccine imports is at an early stage.
Jobayer Alam, the secretary of the company, said, "We have contacted two organisations. They said if the Bangladesh government approves, they will move forward. We have applied for approval to import vaccines from two organisations."
He said no decision has been made on transportation, estimated time, price and amount but we are ready to go into agreement with them upon government approval.
DGHS Director Dr ABM Khurshid Alam said on Monday, "Renata Pharmaceuticals has submitted an application seeking permission to import the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. The relevant documents have been sent to the DGDA that is verifying the company's capacity."
Mentioning that the vaccines need to be preserved at a temperature below zero degrees, the health directorate chief said, "We can preserve this vaccine in Dhaka, but there was no arrangement to store it outside Dhaka."
On 30 April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (mRNA 1273) for emergency use, making it the fifth vaccine to receive emergency validation from the WHO.
The Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is compatible with Bangladesh's vaccine storage and distribution channels with ease of delivery to remote areas.
The vaccine can be stored at temperatures between 2°C and 8°C, maintaining the cold chain at routine refrigeration, just like the process followed for the Oxford vaccine.
Last week, the DGDA authorized the emergency use of China's Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
Experts said that we have to make sure that vaccination by private companies does not affect the government vaccination management.
Professor Md Sayedur Rahman said that the government is giving the vaccines for free. The government has to be careful so that there is no shortage of vaccines as a result of private vaccination.