Serum resumes vaccine supply
The Serum Institute of India yesterday resumed its vaccine export to Bangladesh after a pause of about eight months, sending 10 lakh doses of its Covishield jabs.
In November last year, the Pune-based biotechnology and biopharmaceuticals firm was contracted by Beximco Pharmaceuticals to supply three crore doses of the Covishield vaccine, which it developed with Oxford University and AstraZeneca, between January and June.
Serum was supposed to provide 50 lakh doses each month to Bangladesh, but it managed to provide that quantity in January only.
In February, it provided 20 lakh doses, as the world's largest vaccine manufacturer struggled to keep up supplies following a large unexpected order from the Indian government.
Then in April, in the face of a ferocious second coronavirus wave, the Indian government placed a bar on vaccine exports, dealing a major blow to 190 countries including Bangladesh, which counted on the affordable, 90 percent-effective Covishield jab to vaccinate its population.
This sent the government, which by then was battling a spike in cases in Bangladesh, searching high and low for vaccines. It managed the Sinopharm vaccine, which is said to be 79 percent effective in preventing coronavirus infections, from a Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical company.
This, along with donations of Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs from the Covax scheme, the US and a few other countries kept Bangladesh's Covid-19 inoculation drive, which began on February 7 with the Covishield vaccine, ticking along.
Now, with the easing of India's vaccine exports, Bangladesh's vaccine campaign got further momentum.
So far, Bangladesh has inoculated about 15 percent of its population with full doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Bangladesh plans to vaccinate 70-80 percent of the population by March next year, said Health Minister Zahid Maleque.