Vaccine Campaign: Uncertainty goes, for now
Two and a half million shots of the Moderna vaccine for coronavirus will arrive in the country on July 2 or 3, paving the way for resuming the mass inoculation campaign after over two months.
The first shipment of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine will also arrive in Dhaka around the same time, but the date has not been confirmed yet, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told The Daily Star yesterday.
The minister said the date of arrival of the Moderna shots was confirmed by Covax.
Mass inoculation against Covid-19 has been suspended for over two months. Both inoculation and registration for the vaccination will resume once the new doses arrive, he added.
Meanwhile, the Directorate General of Drug Administration last night issued an emergency use authorisation for the Moderna vaccine, clearing the way for its use in the vaccination campaign.
The vaccine was developed in partnership with the US National Institute of Health.
It was seen in trials that Moderna's efficacy is over 94 percent. The vaccine uses the same mRNA technology as Pfizer's vaccine does.
It requires a storage temperature of -20 degree Celsius. But it can be kept at 2 – 8 degree Celsius for upto a month.
The vaccine has two doses recommended to be administered 28 days apart.
AFP reports that the US began shipping 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine to Bangladesh on Tuesday.
Officials of the Directorate General of Health Services said Bangladesh has facilities capable of storing five million Moderna shots.
The Covax is a global initiative coordinated by the World Health Organization, Vaccine Alliance Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. It was formed to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to Covid vaccines.
Under the Covax facility, Bangladesh was supposed to get 6.8 crore vaccine doses this year. This could cover around 20 percent of the population. But only 1.06 lakh doses of the Pfizer vaccine have arrived so far.
Covax also failed to keep its promise, made on march2, of delivering 1.09 crore doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by May.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said Bangladesh is likely to receive "a good amount" of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
The Finance Division has allocated the funds following the Health Services Division's proposal for buying the doses from Beijing Institute of Biological Products Company Ltd.
The plan is to buy 1.5 crore Sinopharm vaccine shots that would arrive in three shipments.
Health ministry officials earlier said Bangladesh would have to make arrangements to transport the doses from China.
The health minister said inoculation of migrant workers willing to fly to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will begin from Thursday at seven medical college hospitals in Dhaka.
The country has so far inoculated less than three percent of its population. Its vaccination campaign, which started on February 7, stumbled due to suspension of vaccine supplies by the Serum Institute of India amid a surge in daily new cases and deaths there.
Bangladesh and Serum had an agreement that the latter would ship three crore shots of the Oxford vaccine in phases to Bangladesh between January and June.
Serum delivered the first 50 lakh doses in January, but shipped only 20 lakh the following month. No shipment has been made since. Besides, India sent 3.3 million doses as a gift to Bangladesh.
Amid a fast depleting vaccine stock, Bangladesh suspended administering the first dose of the vaccine on April 26. Registering people for vaccination was suspended nine days later.
The government resumed administering the first dose on June 19 on a limited scale with 11 lakh doses of the Sinopharm China sent as a gift.