Poor people will get the doses for free
The government has allotted Tk600 crore to purchase the Covid-19 vaccine — different versions of which are still in the development stage in different countries — for the Bangladeshi people, the cabinet secretary has confirmed.
Poor people without the financial ability to buy the vaccine will definitely get it for free, Khandker Anwarul Islam told a press briefing at the secretariat on Wednesday afternoon, after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who chaired the meeting, joined it virtually from her official residence, Ganabhaban, in Dhaka, while other ministers and secretaries joined from the secretariat.
The cabinet secretary said: “Detailed discussions were held on Covid-19 vaccine today....Bangladesh will get it on priority basis relatively at a lower price. Not only that but our one or more than one pharmaceutical company will also be able to produce Covid-19 vaccines.
He said different countries across the world are in a race to develop vaccines since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding, “Right from the beginning, we’ve been maintaining contacts regularly with all those who are in the race to produce it.”
The cabinet secretary said that Bangladesh will not allow any vaccine without recognition of the World Health Organization (WHO).
Following the WHO recognition as the baseline, the Health Ministry, the departments concerned, and some local pharmaceuticals are also in touch with those who are trying to develop coronavirus vaccines.
He said the government has kept aside an amount of Tk600 crore under a project to procure the Covid-19 vaccine.
“So, there’ll be no lack of funds to procure the vaccine. Bangladesh will collect it from where it’s available,” the Cabinet Secretary added.
“However, no company can assure us when the vaccine will be available in the market. But we have been informed that it may come by June 2021.”
“We are communicating with every country and companies that are producing the vaccine. God willing, we will get it when it hits the market,” he added.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a video speech sent to the Global Vaccine Summit 2020 held in the UK on June 4, sought support from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) in fighting off the pandemic with new vaccines.
“It [proposal] was accepted. So, Bangladesh is also recognized as an eligible country to get vaccine under GAVI,” said the cabinet secretary.
He also said that there is little possibility that the vaccine will be free at the beginning, as the whole world is in a competition to invent it.
Free vaccine may come later in coordination and association with GAVI, the vaccine alliance, he hoped.
The cabinet secretary said so far 46 Covid-19 vaccines have been examined in clinical trials while 91 are in preclinical trials.
“We’re trying to procure the vaccine at the state level, while our pharmaceutical companies are also in negotiations with them [possible vaccine producers] to go on commercial production when it’ll be available,” he said.
Responding to a question, Anwarul said the issues — how and when — regarding the distribution of will be fixed after the purchase of the vaccine.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque also informed the cabinet about how the health authorities will combat the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic — which until Wednesday killed 5,440 people around the country.