• Monday, Jan 30, 2023
  • Last Update : 10:24 am

All eyes on Covid-19 vaccine

  • Published at 02:05 pm January 6th, 2021
AstraZeneca vaccine
File photo: Vials with a sticker are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken on October 31, 2020 Reuters

DGHS officials said the country would need to vaccinate 70% of its people, who will be eligible for the vaccination

Bangladesh has speeded up its activities to collect and administer the Covid-19 vaccine to those who need it the most, as the health authorities claim the country is all set to jumpstart inoculation operations against the virus.

The government’s readiness comes in line with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) forwarding an interim draft of Vaccine Deployment Plan on Sunday to the Health Ministry for approval.

Although the preliminary draft in this regard was sent months ago, the plan will be finalized after getting the green signal from the ministry.

The government said it had already ensured the purchase of some 0 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University, from Serum Institute of India and some 60 million doses of the WHO Covex vaccine. 

However, confusion arose on January 3 when global media reports claimed that the Indian government had slapped a ban on Serum Institute from exporting the vaccine commercially over the next several months.

The following day, Health Minister Zahid Maleque clarified that Bangladesh would receive the vaccines from India on time.

He also confirmed that efforts were underway to swiftly send $120 million for the vaccine. The funds would be deposited by Tuesday. 

The Bangladesh government will spend around $6.25 for each dose of the vaccine.

Also Read-India to export Covid-19 vaccines within weeks

Meanwhile, India on Tuesday said that it would start exporting vaccines within weeks, the BBC reported, quoting a foreign ministry official.

"Within a fortnight of the rollout of the vaccines, we will allow exports to some of our South Asian neighbours. Some of these exports will be paid by us as gifts, and the others will be supplied at roughly the same price the government will be buying the vaccines at," the BBC quoted the official, who preferred to be unnamed, as saying.

Bangladesh's Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has already awarded a Non-Objection Certificate (NOC) to Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to enable it to bring in the vaccine and use it for emergency needs. 

“We have provided the interim Vaccine deployment guideline to the Ministry and are also working on the final draft as new observations are found every day for a vaccine of which we know very little,” DGHS Directorate General ABM Khurshid Alam told Dhaka Tribune.

He also said that the DGHS had already provided the first installment of the payments to Central Medical Stores Depot (CMSD) and would be sending the money to Serum Institute soon. 

Virologist and National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19 Member Prof Nazrul Islam told Dhaka Tribune that although the vaccine was around the corner, there remained a chance that some of the doses might become unusable if not handled and stored properly.

“This is why it is difficult to calculate exactly how many people will be vaccinated this year. This is a first-generation vaccine and it is too early to anticipate the whole picture,” he said. 

How much do we need?

According to the Health Ministry, Bangladesh will follow World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines in vaccinating people in phases.

DGHS officials said the country would need to vaccinate 70% of its people, who will be eligible for the vaccination. It would build the required antibody among people to make the community safer. 

A few days ago, while visiting the DGDA, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said around 55 million people (one third of the Bangladesh population) would not need to take the Covid-19 vaccine as they did not fulfill the criteria set by the WHO guidelines. 

He also estimated that the country would need to vaccinate some 105 million people in total, where vaccines for 45 million people had been ensured till now. 

Therefore, the government will need to arrange more vaccines for at least for some 35 million people to achieve the 70% mark. 

Earlier in December, the minister said the government would receive some 55 million vaccines for 27.5 million people – 2 doses for each administered intramuscularly in 28 days after the first shot – by June this year.

It would take one year to vaccinate all, using the vaccines they will receive from Serum and WHO Covex. 

Bangladesh will receive the first cache of five million doses from India by January, and a total 30 million vaccines over the next 6 months and around 60 million more vaccines, which will be enough for some 20% of total population, from WHO-led  Covax programme. 

Who will get the vaccine?

Health care professionals working at the government Covid-19 treatment facilities will be first in line to get the vaccine acquired from Serum Institute of India, as they are the ones most exposed to the virus. 

In the first phase of vaccination, the government will introduce 10 categories to identify vaccine candidates. 

Also Read- Globe Biotech gets permission to manufacture Covid-19 vaccine for trial

Healthcare professionals, people exposed to the infection, people aged 60 or above and those who are with comorbidities, even if they are aged under 60, will get vaccine doses on a priority basis.

The government is also considering the inclusion of transport workers – drivers, helpers and conductors – in the list for the first phase of the vaccination, as more lockdowns are highly unlikely to be enforced.

In the first phase, 3% of the total population of the country, that is 5,184,282 people, will be vaccinated. And in the second phase, 7% of the total population, that is 12,096,657 people, will be vaccinated.

How will it be administered?

A source in the vaccine management taskforce of DGHS, who wished to remain anonymous, told Dhaka Tribune that the first installment of vaccine would be transported to the districts directly and would be kept at their respective facilities. 

The vaccine will be stored at DGHS EPI cold chain storage. 

Some 10,000 teams, consisting of six to eight members, will be deployed to carry out the vaccination process. 

The vaccine management task force has been working for the upgradation of deployment guidelines as any changing variable could force it to alter the entire process.

The volunteers who will work with the team will be key in identifying local candidates and the DGHS will also create a database of people who will receive the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The DGHS Maternal, Neonatal, Child and Adolescent Health (MNC & AH) Program will lead the vaccination campaign.

“These volunteers will be tasked with monitoring social distancing at the centres. We have allotted Tk898,560,000 in total to be distributed as daily allowance,” Dr Shamsul Haque, line director of the MNC & AH program, told Dhaka Tribune.

The health authorities have also identified over 6,000 centres for vaccination activities at union parishad offices, health care facilities at unions, upazilas, districts, and medical college hospitals. Besides, the health authorities will also be considering selecting some schools for the purpose. 

Virologist Prof Nazrul Islam said private health care providers should also be authorized to vaccinate people, but should be strictly monitored by the government to avoid any kind of anomalies. 

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