2.5 million of them are likely to be AstraZeneca doses, says Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen
Bangladesh is hopeful of receiving 3.5 million vaccine doses this month from Japan, the European Union (EU) and the US under the Covax facility, apart from a steady flow of jabs from China.
Last week, Bangladesh received 4.5 million doses of the Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines.
As the country has managed to rebuild vaccine reserves, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) has resumed vaccine registration while reducing the minimum age to 35. Eligible candidates can now register through instant messaging app imo.
Meanwhile, some recruiting agencies have urged the government to take immediate steps to vaccinate migrant workers of other countries with a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, as double doses would require at least a month. Currently, they are eligible for two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said: “We are in a good position now. I should say we have made a line up. I think there will be no vaccine crisis, and the vaccination program will continue without further interruption,” he told a small group of reporters at his residence.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh was likely to get around 2.5 million doses of vaccine from Japan and one million from the EU under the Covax facility. “These are likely to be AstraZeneca vaccine doses.”
Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as Covax, is a worldwide initiative for equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.
The foreign minister also said the US had informed that more doses of the Moderna vaccine will be sent under Covax in the future. A total 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine have been sent by the US, so far.
He said the government plans to bring vaccine doses from Sinopharm over the next three months, and the first consignment of two million doses had already arrived.
There is a discussion on extending the agreement beyond three months and the Chinese side wants to know how much Bangladesh wants. “We will extend the agreement. They have given a date to let them know about the quantity.”
Responding to a question, the foreign minister said the government will keep in mind the issue of the expiry dates of vaccine doses. “We will not bring any expired vaccines.”
Vaccines from India
On vaccine supply from India, the foreign minister said India had not said that they would not give vaccines to Bangladesh. “I hope we will the vaccines from India once the situation improves and production is increased there.”
Bangladesh had entered into a deal with Serum Institute of India (SII) to purchase 30 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca for Covid-19. Bangladesh was supposed to get five million doses of the vaccine per month, as SII and Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharma signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for priority delivery of the vaccine doses.
Bangladesh has so far received only seven million of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by SII through its contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of the vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift.
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Responding to a question on vaccine coproduction, Dr Momen said they are in discussions with China and Russia. “We approached them for coproduction and there is progress.”
The foreign minister said many private companies and individuals have lined up to bring vaccines to the country, but the government does not want to take that risk. “We will bring vaccine doses and distribute them free of cost.”
Dr Momen said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina allocated adequate funds for purchasing vaccine doses, as the government wants to bring 80% of people of the country under vaccination.
Earlier on July 3, Dr Momen said they had received positive indications from a number of countries regarding supply of more vaccine doses to Bangladesh.
“There’s nothing to be worried about. There will be plenty of vaccines. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has kept aside adequate funds for purchasing vaccines,” he said.
DGHS spokesperson Prof Nazmul Islam said vaccination activities had come to a standstill, but they have now been resumed.
The process of registering through the surokkha app was also stopped, but now registration is open again. The age limit for vaccination has been lowered to 35 years, and the priority list includes university students and expatriate workers.
He made the statement during a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.