Set up vaccine plant by this fiscal
Amid delays in completing the vaccine manufacturing and research plant in Gopalganj, a parliamentary watchdog yesterday asked the health ministry to finish all works and start making vaccines within this fiscal year (2022-23).
The parliamentary standing committee on health ministry came up with the recommendation in a meeting at Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, with Awami League lawmaker Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim in the chair.
According to minutes of the committee's previous meeting, which was approved yesterday, the committee chief said minus election time, the present government only has a year of its tenure remaining.
The committee, therefore, stressed the need to complete all works and start manufacturing 12 types of vaccines within the present fiscal year, according to the minutes.
The committee chief said after fulfilling the demand of the country, it would be possible to export vaccines from the plant.
Selim asked the health ministry to prepare to place the draft bill on upgrading the drug regulatory authority to "maturity level-3", so that Bangladeshi vaccines can be exported abroad.
Placing the progress report on installing the plant before the committee, Ehsanul Kabir, managing director of Essential Drugs Company, which was selected to implement the project, said works to acquire land is ongoing. He said the process for signing a memorandum of understanding with a US company -- to import vaccine raw materials -- is almost at the final stage.
The vaccine manufacturing and research plant project in Gopalganj saw no major progress over a year due to red tape, raising concerns that the plant -- one of the top-priority projects of the country -- may not see the light of day anytime soon.
An AL lawmaker, also a member of the JS body on health, earlier told The Daily Star, "Due to the government's complex official procedures, the project has seen almost no progress. I don't think the plant's construction will start in a year."
In July last year, the government moved to set up a fully-fledged vaccine plant and research institute, following the Covid-19 vaccine-supply debacle.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had announced that her government was going to set up the institute as soon as possible.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) is financing the project.
The institute, the first of its kind here, would have three components -- a vaccine institute, a vaccine-packaging plant, and a research and development site.