Covax is committed to provide 68 million doses free of cost
With not many sources for procuring Covid-19 vaccines, Bangladesh now depends on China’s Sinopharm and the Covax facility for its future supplies.
The Bangladesh government has planned to arrange 120 million more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by December to vaccinate nearly half of the population.
The government aims to vaccinate around 138.2 million people (80% of the population) for which around 276.4 million doses of vaccines are needed.
However, the country faced a severe shortage of vaccines since the vaccination drive got underway on February 8.
Serum Institute of India (SII) was supposed to supply a total of 30 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses to Bangladesh in phases. However, after sending only 7 million doses, the supply was stopped due to a ban by India on vaccine export.
Apart from this, Bangladesh has sent a proposal to Russia on procuring 10 million Sputnik V vaccines, but the process has faced setbacks due to the recent Covid surge in Russia.
Therefore, Bangladesh is mostly dependent on China and the Covax - a global initiative to deliver Covid vaccines - to roll out vaccination programs across the country, with mass vaccination drives drawing great enthusiasm among the public.
According to the DGHS, some 2.8 million people were vaccinated on the first day of the mass vaccination drive and until Tuesday some 12.3 million people were awaiting vaccination after registration.
“We will get 60 million vaccines from China gradually by this year,” said Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
“We also expect that Bangladesh will get some 60 million vaccines under the Covax initiative by this year,” he added.
Since January, Bangladesh has received some 27.34 million doses of vaccines from SII, Sinopharm, Japan and the USA under the Covax scheme.
Bangladesh is one of the least vaccinated countries in the world as its vaccination rate stood below 3% until Wednesday, while the rates in India (8%), Sri Lanka (13%) and Bhutan’s (62%) are much higher. Some countries, such as Germany and Israel, are already set to roll out a third dose.
Procurement from China
The government has already received five million vaccine doses from China under a purchase agreement of procuring 15 million Sinopharm doses. Sinopharm will deliver another five million this month and the remaining five million by September.
On Wednesday, the Cabinet Committee on Public Procurement approved a proposal regarding the purchase of another 60 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from China's Sinopharm.
Following the meeting, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal virtually told reporters that the committee had endorsed the proposal placed by the Health Services Division.
DGHS officials said the Chinese government had already assured Bangladesh that it would supply the vaccines between October and December.
However, Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Md Shamsul Arefin said that the government was expecting to receive these vaccines by November this year.
Vaccine consignments under Covax facility
According to the DGHS, the Covax is committed to provide 68 million doses free of cost, of which Bangladesh has already received 11.5 million doses.
The rest will be delivered within December or at the most by January next year, said DGHS officials.
Receipt of consignments of the vaccine under the Covax facility got momentum in August after being halted for a few weeks.
As of Wednesday, Bangladesh has received 3.4 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine under the Covax initiative.
Under the facility, Japan will send 1.4 million AstraZeneca doses and the US will deliver 2 million Moderna doses by August.