The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine on Friday secured approval from India's drug regulator for emergency use, paving the way for its rollout in the world's second worst affected country.
After India's Oxford nod, Bangladesh is now closer to the jab. Bangladesh's health ministry hopes to get the vaccine by January.
Bangladesh has already had an agreement with Serum through Beximco to get the Oxford vaccine only. Beximco will now seek approval to implement the vaccine in Bangladesh.
Beximco Pharma's Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza told The Business Standard, "The Oxford vaccine has got approval for emergency use in India. Serum informed us that they came to know about a verbal nod. They will let us know in detail about it after getting a formal letter. Then, we will fix our next step."
"The letter will be available to us tonight or tomorrow. We will submit it to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA). Besides, we have already started giving necessary documents to the directorate for its approval to the Oxford vaccine," he added.
DGDA Spokesperson Ayub Hossain told TBS that the government has signed a deal to procure the Oxford vaccine. Since this vaccine has been approved in the United Kingdom (UK) and India, our expert committee will now ponder on this vaccine's approval in Bangladesh as per our policy. As a regulatory authority, we will take a decision on the advice of the expert committee."
On 30 December 2020, the UK became the first country to authorise the Oxford vaccine. Argentina has also the go-ahead to the vaccine for urgent public use.
India's Central Drugs Standard Control Organization is also considering emergency-use authorisation applications for vaccines made by Pfizer Inc with Germany's BioNTech, and by India's Bharat Biotech.
The Oxford vaccine can be a game-changer for global immunisation as it can be kept at normal fridge temperature unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab that has to be kept at -70C.
Even though the Indian government has not yet signed a purchase agreement with Serum, the company says it will focus on the home market first, and then exports – mainly to South Asian countries and Africa.
The Serum Institute of India is manufacturing Oxford's vaccine dubbed Covidshield. The world's biggest producer of vaccines has already stockpiled about 50 million doses.
India wants to start administering vaccine shots soon, most likely by Wednesday.
On 5 November Bangladesh signed an agreement with the Serum Institute and Beximco Pharmaceuticals for availing 3 core doses of Covidshield.
In the initial six months of the first phase, Serum will provide 50 lakh vaccine doses per month to Bangladesh through Beximco.
After the vaccine arrives in Bangladesh, Beximco will initially use its own cold chain to store the doses. Later, the company will deliver the vaccine to designated state-owned warehouses.
Although the shot faced so many questions before getting approval, it will be a key to mass immunisations.
In the first trials of the Oxford vaccine, it was found to be 62% effective overall, though one group accidentally given a half-dose first was 90% protected.
The figure was just 62% when people were given two full doses of the jab and 90% when they were first given a half dose and then a full one.