Sunday, January 17, 2021 | ePaper

When can Bangladesh expect a Covid-19 vaccine?

  • Print


The world has finally got two Covid-19 vaccines, which are said to be highly effective. Will the people of Bangladesh have access to those as fast as they expect? Experts say there are challenges.
The stunning results from Covid-19 vaccine trials by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna raised hopes across the world in the battle against the deadly virus, but experts find big challenges for Bangladesh to avail benefits from the two vaccines due to its existing poor cold chain.
They said the mRNA technology-based vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer need to be stored at minus 70-80 degrees Celsius temperature, but the country has a cold chain having the capacity of preserving life-saving drugs and children's vaccines at temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) framework.
The experts said Bangladesh is also unlikely to be able to enhance its existing capacity for storing, transporting and distributing mRNA vaccines overnight as it is a very expensive and time-consuming process and the required number of refrigerators will not be found within a short time.
Under the circumstances, they said, the country needs a prudent Covid-19 vaccine policy alongside keeping in touch with all other potential countries and originations that are conducting the phase-III trial of vaccine development so that a suitable vaccine can be procured and maintained using the existing cold chain capacity.
Contacted, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told UNB: "We'll procure a suitable vaccine from the source where we'll get it first. We're in touch with all to have it."
He said the government has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bangladesh's Beximco Pharmaceuticals to get three crore doses of the vaccine developed by Oxford University.
"We'll get this vaccine at the early stage and it'll be preserved at Beximco's cold storage. So, we'll be able to give this vaccine to our 1.5 crore population-two doses for each person," he said.
Health Services Division Secretary Abdul Mannan said the government is not thinking about procuring the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna as those are not suitable for Bangladesh due to temperature-related problems.
"Nine organisations in the world are in the final stage of producing Covid vaccines, and we're in touch with six of them. we'll buy any suitable vaccine from where we get it earlier," he added.
Difficulties in preserving mRNA vaccines
Contacted, Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said it seems two mRNA technology-based corona vaccines will hit the market soon if they get approval from the different regulatory bodies, including the WHO.
"A significant number of people in the USA, and the European countries may get these vaccines by the next six months. But it'll be difficult for Bangladesh to procure and preserve these two vaccines for various reasons. The two vaccines need a storage temperature of minus 70-80 degrees Celsius," he said.
The vaccine expert said there are also very few aircraft that can carry these vaccines maintaining the required temperature.
"So, first of all, it'll be difficult to bring these vaccines to Dhaka from the USA. Secondly, if even we can manage such aircraft to carry the vaccines, we don't have required transport to carry those from the airport. More importantly, we don't have the cold chain for storing, transporting and distributing these vaccines."
Dr Be-Nazir said Bangladesh should now focus on the vaccines those could be preserved using the existing cold chain network.
Who may get it first?
Assigned by the government, Dr Be-Nazir said the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Groups (NITAGs) has already set priorities for the distribution of vaccine doses once those will be found.
As per the outlines of NITAGs, he said, those who are working on the frontline in tackling the corona pandemic, including the health workers and law enforcers, will get the first priority.
Dr Be-Nazir, a member of NITAGs, said they suggested providing the media workers, elderly public representatives and elderly freedom fighters with the vaccine in the first phase.
In their outline, he said, they also recommended giving the vaccine on a priority basis to the people having comorbidities and the senior citizens. "We, however, didn't suggest vaccinating the pregnant women and children at the initial stage as we don't have any credible study to assess its reaction to them."
He said they recommended providing the vaccine free of cost, but the government wants to take $4-$5 equivalent money for each dose of the vaccine.
Vaccine policy urgently needed
Dr Be-Nazir said Bangladesh may not get sufficient doses of any vaccine at the primary stage. "So, we need proper planning to successfully use whatever we get for controlling the pandemic."
Former World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Advisor Muzaherul Huq said the government should formulate a national Covid vaccine policy very soon for procurement, storage and distribution of a suitable vaccine.
"We also need to conduct a national-level serosurveillance survey to know the actual data about the exposure levels and the presence of antibodies in people. We need the rapid antibody test to see the level of immunity people have. It'll help get an idea about the required doses of vaccine and set the priority for its justified distribution," he observed.
Dr Huq also said the government must procure any vaccine based on some principles such as efficiency and safety levels, availability and affordability. "We must consider all these things before signing any deal for the vaccine."
He said Bangladesh should not procure any vaccine which it cannot afford in terms of money, preservation and distribution.
The expert also said Bangladesh should not ink any deal with any institution and country unless their vaccines get approval from the WHO and other regulatory body for marketing,
"We should keep in touch with all countries and companies that are developing the vaccines, but we should not make any deal hastily. The government should give the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) authority to find out the suitable vaccines for the country," he suggested.


More News For this Category

Price hike of rice is mysterious

We are dismayed to see a continuous increase of prices of essentials, particularly rice. It is not new for the consumers of Bangladesh to suffer as a syndicate of

Prices of edible oil skyrocket

Prices of edible oil skyrocket

Al Amin :The abnormal surge in the prices of the edible oil has added to the woes of common people amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.The prices of the oil are

Engineers of Roads and Highways Department examine cracks on Salehpur Bridge near Aminbazar in Dhaka while carrying out repairing works of the bridge on Saturday.

Engineers of Roads and Highways Department examine cracks on Salehpur Bridge near Aminbazar in Dhaka while carrying out repairing works of the bridge on Saturday.

Municipality polls cannot be called participatory: EC Mahbub

Staff Reporter :Referring to instances of anomalies in Saturday's municipality polls, EC Mahbub Talukdar on Saturday said the polls cannot be called "participatory".In a statement, Mahbub Talukdar said after visiting

21 more die of Covid-19 in country

News Desk :Bangladesh logged 21 more coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours until 8:00 am on Friday, taking the total fatalities from virus to 7,883.During this timeline, 578 fresh

WHO calls for equitable access to Covid vaccines

As Covid-19 cases spike in parts of Europe, Africa and the Americas, and new variants of the virus emerge in some countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO)

6 members of 'extortionist gang' held in city

News Desk :A special team of Detective Branch (DB)  under Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has arrested six alleged members of an extortionist gang from different areas of the capital.A special

US tightens security before Joe Biden‘s inauguration

US tightens security before Joe Biden‘s inauguration

Al Jazeera :Washington, DC - Tall fences topped with thick, spiralling razor wire encased the US Capitol area on Friday, as thousands of heavily armed National Guardsmen stood watch. Bridges

2 hacked to death over land dispute in Pabna

Our Correspondent :Two men were killed in an attack over land dispute in Sathiya upazila of Pabna Saturday morning.The incident took place around 11am at a construction site on the

12 injured in automobile service centre fire in Tejgaon

Staff Reporter :At least 12 people have sustained burn injuries in a fire at an automobile service centre in the Tejagaon Link Road area of Dhaka.The incident took place around