Produce Covid jabs in 6 to 9 months
A parliamentary body yesterday strongly recommended that Essential Drugs, a government-owned company, take immediate measures to produce Covid-19 vaccines within six to nine months so that all citizens can be brought under vaccination as soon as possible.
The health ministry in a meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban told the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry that it formed two committees -- an advisory one and another technical – on producing Covid-19 vaccine at Essential Drug's Gopalganj unit, meeting sources said.
The coronavirus vaccine will be produced at Essential Drug's laboratory through a process known as fill-finish.
Fill-finish, or fill and finish, is the final manufacturing step in the overall drug manufacturing process.
In the pharmaceutical industry, fill and finish is the process of filling vials with the vaccine and finishing the process by packaging the medicine for distribution.
Members of the advisory committee are the minister of health, senior secretary of the Ministry of Health, director general of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and managing director of Essential Drugs, said meeting sources.
The terms of reference of this committee is to advise the technical committee on production of Covid-19 and to review the recommendations of the technical committee and get the approval of the prime minister to undertake vaccine production activities.
The DGHS director general was made convener of the technical committee, the members of which are: director general of Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), additional secretary (health service) of health ministry, director of IEDCR, director (planning and research) of DGHS, line director (MNC&H) of DGHS, dean of the Department of Pharmacy, University of Dhaka and managing director of Essential Drugs.
The committee will take steps to produce effective and safe vaccines in the country, review the recommendations and make recommendations to the government, take steps to increase the country's capacity in vaccine production and make arrangements for quality control of the production, storage and usage levels of vaccines.
In addition to these two government committees, the parliamentary committee yesterday has also formed a separate committee led by AFM Ruhal Haque, a member of the parliamentary watchdog, to oversee the measures to produce the coronavirus vaccine in Essential Drugs.
"We have strongly recommended to the health ministry to take immediate measures to produce Covid-19 vaccine at Essential Drugs, like India's Serum Institute," AFM Ruhal Haque, who was present at the meeting, told The Daily Star.
"The committee is very serious about producing Covid vaccine in the country immediately through the fill-finish manufacturing process," Ruhal, also a former health minister, said.
The committee also asked the ministry to take long-term measures to manufacture Covid-19 vaccine in the country following proper research, Ruhal, also an Awami League MP, said.
Emerging from the meeting, Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim, chief of the parliamentary watchdog, said they have asked the health ministry to submit a complete plan on producing Covid-19 in the country by Essential Drugs within six to nine months.
The ministry was asked to submit its plan before the committee in its next meeting scheduled to be held within a month, he also said.
He added, "We want to bottle the vaccine for now. However, if possible and if we get a patent, we will develop the vaccine here."
Mentioning that the Gopalganj unit of Essential Drugs has been set up to produce the vaccine, he said, "We will bottle the vaccine by constructing infrastructure within the existing system. We will also produce pneumonia, tuberculosis and other vaccines needed in the country."
The issue of Covid-19 vaccine production was first discussed at the parliamentary committee meeting in June.
According to the working paper of the committee meeting, Sanjan K Das, a researcher at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom, sent a proposal to the health secretary in April to build infrastructure for vaccine production at the government level.
Sanjan Das's vaccine-making technology has undergone RND and preclinical trials, the paper said.
It is mentioned in the working paper that the production of vaccine is possible if Essential Drugs constructs some infrastructure facilities and buys some new equipment. The ministry is now considering the technical review of this proposal.
Sanjan Das was present at the parliamentary body's meeting yesterday.