While countries around the world have been making desperate efforts to get Covid-19 vaccines, Bangladesh's initiatives to get the vaccine, unfortunately, is not that visible. Our government has refused to co-fund the trials of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine at a time when a number of countries have already made investments to get vaccines from companies that were conducting phase-III trials. According to health experts, such a decision has only narrowed down our options for getting vaccines when they will be ready. Although the government is saying that it is in talks with makers of five front-running vaccine candidates, we are not aware of any progress made in this regard.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a vaccine for the coronavirus disease could be ready for registration by the year end or early next year. Which means we do not have much time left to make a decision about getting the vaccine.
As China's Sinovac's CoronaVac's phase-III testing in Bangladesh is now uncertain, the government has two options left for getting vaccines. It could get 20 percent of the vaccines it needs from the WHO and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) under the COVAX Facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines worldwide. The second option is to make deals with pharmaceutical companies or governments. While the first option is complicated because of the number of countries in queue and massive global demand, there is also no visible efforts by the government for the second option. So, we are just not sure what the government's plan is regarding the vaccines.
Bangladesh should not lag behind in the global race for vaccines. Since the government has enough funds for the vaccines, it should not sit idle with it. We must remember that Bangladesh is currently the 16th worst hit country in the world in terms of the number of Covid-19 cases—people are getting infected and losing their lives on a regular basis. And since a number of countries have already been grappling with the second wave of Covid-19 infections, we might also experience a new wave in the coming winter. Time is running out. If we do not arrange for a vaccine now, we might have to pay a much higher price for them later.