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Bangladesh approves China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

  • Published at 08:23 am April 29th, 2021
Sinopharm vaccine
File photo of the Covid-19 vaccine made by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), taken on April 15, 2021 Reuters

A shipment of 500,000 doses is expected to arrive in two weeks, says the drug regulator

Bangladesh has approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm for emergency use, after clearing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine earlier this week amid a supply crunch.

The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) announced the approval on Thursday at a press conference.

“We expect a shipment of 500,000 doses as gift to arrive within two weeks,” said DGDA Director General Mahbubur Rahman.

The health authorities will vaccinate 1,000 people in the beginning to observe the effect, he said before adding: “Mass inoculation will start after the observation period.”

The second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine needs to be administered after 28 days of the first jab, according to the DGDA chief.

Also read - 8.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered in Bangladesh

The drug regulator’s 12-strong public health emergency panel examined the efficacy of the vaccine.

“The vaccine is being used by China and some other countries. We’ve got all the data about it and we’ve scrutinized it through experts,” Rahman said.

Director General of Drug Administration Maj Gen Mahbubur Rahman addressing the media on Thursday, April 29, 2021 Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh will collect the vaccine through a government-to government (G2G) agreement, said the DGDA chief before adding that state-level talks were taking place over manufacturing the vaccine in Bangladesh.

According to him, Incepta Pharmaceuticals, Popular Pharma and Health Care Pharma have the capacity of producing vaccine in Bangladesh.

“If we could collect raw materials, then it’ll be possible to start the production within one or one-and-a-half month. In case of technology transfer, it’ll take six months to start the production,” said Rahman.

Asked about the local vaccine Bongovex, developed by Globe Biotech Ltd, Rahman said they were yet to receive any document from the drugmaker. “Once they submit the 

necessary documents, after reviewing them a decision would be taken.”

Earlier in the day, Health Minister Zahid Maleque also said that the government was open to allow countries like, Russia and China, to manufacture their vaccines in Bangladesh.

“Then [Bangladeshi pharmaceuticals] will also be able to export abroad by meeting our demand,” he said while addressing a virtual discussion organized by the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).

Also read - Bangladesh seeks share of 60 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses from US

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it expects a decision on Sinopharm vaccine by the end of the week, Reuters reported.

WHO could decide on a vaccine made by Sinopharm by the end of this week, and one made by Sinovac Biotech by the end of the next week, its Assistant Director-General Mariângela Batista Galvão Simão told a briefing on Monday.

China has already deployed millions of doses of both vaccines at home and has exported them to many countries, particularly in Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Sinopharm uses inactivated coronaviruses to make their vaccines — a tried-and-true method dating back over 130 years. The company uses chemicals to disable the virus’s genes so that it cannot replicate.

Yet the inactivated coronavirus can still cause the body’s immune system to produce antibodies against it.

The vaccine could be stored in a standard refrigerator between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, like the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Also read - EU report accuses Russia, China of sowing mistrust in Western vaccines

Bangladesh’s move to approve the use of two vaccines in a week comes at a time when it is in desperate need of doses to ensure the continuation of the nationwide inoculation drive.

On Tuesday, the drug authorities cleared the emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Bangladesh has been relying on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and so far, around 6 million people have been inoculated.

However, amid uncertainty over when shipments from India would resume, health authorities have stopped administering the first dose of the vaccine from April 26.

Bangladesh has an agreement with the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, for 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine but has received only 7 million so far. Another 3.3 million doses were received as a ‘gift’ from the neighbouring nation.

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