With the disruption in the supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII), the government has formed a five-member committee to find alternative sources of Covid vaccines.
The committee, led by the director general of the Drug Administration, will find the alternative sources and submit a report to the Prime Minister's Office within seven days.
A meeting was held in the PMO, chaired by the principal secretary, where this decision was made.
"There is an uncertainty over vaccine availability. We have formed a five-member committee to find alternative sources of vaccines," Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, DG of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told The Daily Star yesterday.
He also said Sinopharm, the Chinese vaccine manufacturer, through a third party, submitted a proposal, which the committee will scrutinise.
"The committee will give suggestions and then a decision will be made," he said.
The DG said the committee can co-opt other members if needed.
Asked whether the existing vaccination campaign will be hampered, the DG said if vaccines do not reach on time, there is a chance of disruption.
Sinopharm has offered 60 lakh doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh when the country has been witnessing an intense surge in daily infection rates and deaths.
With the Serum Institute failing to comply with the commitment to supply three crore vaccine shots in six instalments, the Bangladesh government started to explore alternative sources for the jabs in a desperate attempt to continue the inoculation drive against Covid-19, DGHS officials said.
Sinopharm, through a medium, recently made the offer to Bangladesh, they added.
In early 2020, the Beijing Institute of Biological Products created an inactivated coronavirus vaccine called BBIBP-CorV. China, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan and some other countries across the world are currently using it.
The World Health Organization is yet to give the approval for the vaccine. But the WHO advisory panel said Sinopharm has presented data on their Covid-19 vaccines indicating levels of efficacy.
Apart from this, the Bangladesh government is also communicating with Russia for their vaccine -- Sputnik V.
The government had earlier signed an agreement to purchase three crore doses of vaccines from SII through its local agent Beximco. As per the agreement, the government was supposed to get 50 lakh doses of vaccines each month. But till yesterday, the government has only received 70 lakh doses of vaccines in two instalments.
New Delhi reportedly imposed a temporary restriction on all major exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by SII to meet demands at home, reported global media.
Contacted, Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco, said they are yet to get any details from Serum but are hopeful of getting the vaccines soon.