Budget boosted for jab campaign
The government will spend an estimated Tk 17,000 crore this fiscal year to procure Covid-19 vaccines as it has secured access to around 24 crore doses from multiple sources.
The amount, which includes transportation and other costs associated with administering the jabs, exceeds the 2021-22 fiscal year's allocation of Tk 14,200 crore for vaccination.
The funds include loans from development partners. The government will readjust the allocation at the end of this fiscal year, according to officials of the finance and health ministries.
The finance ministry earlier this month released Tk 6,299 crore ($741 million) of Tk 7,990 crore ($940 million) it received from the Asian Development Bank to buy 10.5 crore doses from two Chinese drug makers under the Covax facility.
Of the doses, around 7.5 crore shots will be procured from Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac while the rest will be from Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, finance ministry officials said.
"The vaccines will start coming to Bangladesh from next month. By December, we hope to get all the 10.5 crore doses," a top official of the ministry told The Daily Star, preferring anonymity.
Each dose would cost around $6, said the official.
Besides, the country is expected to get three crore doses of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine under the Covax facility by the first quarter of next year. The vaccine will be purchased using the World Bank funds, said finance ministry sources.
The government initially sought seven crore doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, called Janssen, but Covax primarily agreed to three crore doses.
The Covax facility is a global initiative coordinated by the World Health Organization, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The facility is working to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Other than the global arrangement, the government also secured 10.7 crore doses through bilateral arrangements. Of the doses, 7.7 crore will be purchased from Sinopharm and the rest will be from Serum Institute of India (SII).
The government has already paid Tk 3,310 crore from the government's own fund for this purpose.
"We have set aside an estimated Tk 4,250 crore for logistics like buying syringes and administering the jabs," said the finance ministry official.
Moreover, the country will get five crore free vaccine doses from Covax by the end of this year, he added.
Bangladesh started the mass vaccination programme on February 7 this year for people aged 65 and above with 70 lakh Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shots, produced by SII.
In phases, the government eventually lowered the age bar to 18 years to include university students.
In November last year, the government had signed a tripartite deal with SII and its local distributor for purchasing 3 crore doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in phases from January to June.
But the country suffered frequent hiccups in its mass inoculation campaigns, mainly due to shortage of doses caused by a yawning gap between supply commitments and actual delivery.
Serum delivered 70 lakh doses in two shipments in January and February, but stopped shipment since then as Covid cases surged in India.
Besides, the government is yet to get a quarter of the 6.8 crore free doses that Covax promised to deliver by June this year. Uncertainty remains over whether the global facility would be able to keep its commitment to supply all the doses by December this year.
The dearth in supply from SII and Covax led to suspension of administering the first dose of the vaccine on April 26.
Gradually, however, the situation improved as supplies started coming in from the US, China and Japan, helping the government to resume administering the first dose on June 19 on a limited scale, and gradually expand in scale from that point.
The government has now planned to inoculate on a massive scale in the coming months to make up for lost time.
"We are confident that a large portion of the country's population would be inoculated by this fiscal year," said a finance ministry official.
Bangladesh has so far received more than five crore doses of different vaccine from various sources, according to the health directorate.
Around 3.33 crore people have gotten their first doses while around 1.69 crore people have received both doses as of September 30, according to data from the directorate.
Around 12.77 percent of the target -- inoculating 80 percent of the total population aged 18 and above -- has been met so far.
Bangladesh has been witnessing a gradual decline in the number of Covid deaths and infections over the last two weeks after the Delta variant of the virus ravaged the country in June and July.
The number of deaths shot up to over 200 a day at that time and remained above 100 a day for several weeks. However, deaths from the deadly virus have been declining steadily, and came down to 21 in the 24 hours till 8:00am yesterday.
The total death count stands at 27,531, said a press release issued by the DGHS.
7.9 LAKH DOSES FROM
GERMANY TO ARRIVE TODAY
The country will receive 7.9 lakh more doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Germany today, reports UNB.
A cargo flight of Qatar Airlines carrying the vaccine doses will land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 5:00pm, said officials at the health ministry.
German Ambassador to Bangladesh Achim Troster and Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Senior Secretary Lokman Hossain Miah will be present at the airport to receive the consignment.