Pending consignments of AstraZeneca: Vaccine campaign braces for setback | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 16, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:12 PM, April 16, 2021

Pending consignments of AstraZeneca: Vaccine campaign braces for setback

Uncertainty looms large over the smooth vaccine campaign as the government is yet to get any specific date from Serum Institute of India about receiving the pending consignment of AstraZeneca doses.

Officials said the existing stock would be exhausted in the next 15 days if administration of both first and second doses go simultaneously at the current rate.

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Currently, around two lakh people are receiving the second dose of the vaccine while less than 50,000 are taking their first dose every day.

The country has administered around 65 lakh doses from a stock of 1.02 crore jabs.

Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco pharmaceuticals Ltd, told The Daily Star that they were in close contact with Serum. Beximco is the local agent of Serum in Bangladesh.

"Serum informed us that they are ready to export [vaccine doses], but they need a clearance from the government. Serum is yet to get the clearance from the government," Papon said.

Asked when Serum informed them this, Papon said, "Whenever we contact, they say so … Even this week, Serum said this as well. Once Serum gets the clearance, only then we can say what number of vaccine doses we will get. And when we will get it."

Bangladesh signed an agreement with Serum to get three crore doses of vaccine in six installments. The country got the first installment of 50 lakh doses as per schedule, but in the second installment it got only 20 lakh doses in February.

It has not received any vaccine from Serum since then, although the third installment of 50 lakh doses was scheduled to arrive in the last week of March.

In March, India placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The Indian government said rising cases meant domestic demand was expected to pick up and so the doses were needed for India's own vaccine rollout.

Adar Poonawalla of Serum told the media early this month that Serum's production capacity to manufacture Covishield is "very stressed, to put it frankly" amid pressure from soaring cases in India.

Meanwhile, Serum has been served a legal notice by AstraZeneca over vaccine supply delays.

When Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) of Bangladesh was asked whether the ongoing vaccination would be hampered under the circumstances, it's director general Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam said, "There is a concern over it, but we are trying heart and soul to manage the situation."

The DG also said, "If we don't get the vaccine from Serum soon, then we will try to manage the same vaccine from other sources."

A source in the DGHS said continuing both the first and second dose was a big challenge right now. "We are now concerned whether we can administer the second dose as per our plan. Because we don't have enough vaccines in our hand."


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