Beximco Pharmaceuticals, one of the leading drug makers of the country, announced today it will invest with Serum Institute of India (SII) to ensure Bangladesh receives Covid-19 vaccine on a priority basis, once approved by the regulator.
The announcement came more than a week after Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla's visit to Dhaka and a day after the Bangladesh government announced approval of the stage three trial of a vaccine of Chinese company -- Sinovac Research and Development Co Ltd.
During Shringla's visit, Dhaka had sought to collaborate with Indian vaccine developers for the trial in Bangladesh. The secretary did not speak of any collaboration for the trial, but said Bangladesh would be a priority country in terms of getting Covid-19 vaccines once developed and approved.
In a press statement, Beximco Pharmaceuticals said it will make a financial contribution to advance the development of the vaccine, which will be adjusted based on the vaccine price under the terms of the planned arrangement.
The number of doses to be provided to Bangladesh on a priority basis and Beximco Pharmaceuticals investment amount will depend on regulatory approvals, SII's production capacity and earlier commitments to other countries, it said. The SII, the world's largest vaccine producer, has partnered with AstraZeneca of UK, the Gates Foundation and Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation (GAVI) to produce more than a billion doses of vaccine for global supply.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenovirus vector-based vaccine, currently undergoing large-scale phase-III trials in Brazil, US, UK and India. The UK trials are well underway and has shown very encouraging results and is expected to receive approval by the end of this year, reports Economic Times of India.
"Beximco will be the exclusive supplier of the vaccine in Bangladesh and will facilitate the needs of the government of Bangladesh by offering the opportunity for it to reserve the desired quantities for priority supply at prices to be agreed between the government and SII," the statement said. Beximco will secure additional quantities of the vaccine to be distributed to the private pay market in Bangladesh, it said.
"The complexity of the market and production means that any financial implications of this arrangement are difficult to forecast at the current time so the company will provide the market with any further meaningful updates in due course." Adar C Poonawalla, chief executive officer of SII, and Shayan F Rahman, principal of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, said in the joint statement.
They said they are excited to bring together two of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Bangladesh and India with the scale and capabilities to bring a hugely promising treatment to the people who need it the most.
"Between us, we can go a long way towards helping to mitigate the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic."
The development comes when many countries of the world are racing for the most essential vaccine amid the pandemic that has caused deaths of 836,364 out of 24,663,197 infections as of yesterday.
The death toll in Bangladesh as of yesterday was 4,174 and the total number of infection 306,794, show government data.
Prof Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the Bangladesh Pharmacological Society, said the best option for Bangladesh is to go for a joint venture with the vaccine developer and produce it in the country.
"In that case, Bangladeshi drug manufacturing companies will develop their capacity and the prices of the vaccines will be more competitive," he told The Daily Star.
Under the contract between icddr,b and Sinovac, the Chinese company would provide 110,000 free vaccine doses to Bangladesh if the Phase-III trial of the vaccine is proven safe.
Besides, the company has committed to transferring the technology of the vaccine production in a bulk amount to a "qualified" Bangladeshi producer at a discounted price "to meet the need of the larger population of Bangladesh", said icddr,b officials.