Bangladesh should also focus on local manufacturing to secure readily available shots for the population, experts say
As the country’s health authorities claim to be all set to jumpstart inoculation operations against the coronavirus, experts believe it is essential for Bangladesh to conduct a few dry runs first in order to carry out the vaccination program smoothly.
At the same time, they also think it is time for Bangladesh to look for opportunities for technology transfer from pharmaceutical companies to have the vaccines manufactured locally.
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, Dr Shahriar Rozen, former research fellow at ICDDR,B and currently a senior policy lead for the Alberta Ministry of Health in Canada, said that one of the most important issues for Bangladesh at this moment was to see how prepared it really was for the vaccination drive by conducting dry runs in selected cities.
“It is very much feasible for Bangladesh to run a few mock drills before carrying out the vaccination process. India has already conducted two dry runs. The drills will help the health authorities to conduct the vaccination process and mobilize the beneficiaries smoothly,” he said.
Bangladesh has so far made arrangements for some 90 million doses of vaccine — 30 million shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine from the Serum Institute of India and 60 million doses under the WHO-led COVAX program, which was pledged by the global vaccine alliance GAVI.
In July last year, Globe Biotech announced it was developing a Covid-19 vaccine, making it the only vaccine candidate developed by a Bangladeshi company.
The vaccine candidate now must pass the clinical trials before getting approval for human use.
“It would be a relief for Bangladesh if Globe Biotech’s vaccine passed the clinical trials successfully and got approval to manufacture a vaccine against Covdi-19,” Virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19 Prof Nazrul Islam said while talking to Dhaka Tribune.
Importing vaccines from other countries required a significant amount of time and cost, he said, adding that Bangladesh had to depend on other countries for the availability of vaccines as well in such circumstances.
He added that Bangladesh should look for opportunities to make deals with pharmaceutical companies, which had already developed a vaccine against coronavirus, to manufacture it locally.
Dr Asif Mahmud, in-charge of the research and development department at Globe Biotech, told Dhaka Tribune that if everything worked out well, it would be possible to complete the clinical trial within six months.
“If we can pass all three phases of the clinical trial and get approved for use, we will be able to cut down our dependence on foreign countries to some extent,” he said.
Vaccinating such a huge population in Bangladesh would be difficult if there were no homegrown vaccines available, he said.
Dr Asif added that the vaccine candidate developed by Globe Biotech could be stored in 2-8 degrees Celsius for one month and minus 20 degrees Celsius for six months.
“Since cold chain capacity is going to be an issue to store vaccine vials in the right temperatures, locally produced vaccines can resolve this issue to a large extent,” he added.
Homegrown vaccines and locally manufactured vaccines did not need to be shipped and stored in the cold chains for a longer period of time. Also, local manufacturers could supply vaccines as per the country’s demand, he added.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), the first installment of vaccines will be transported to the districts directly and will be kept at designated facilities. The vaccines will be stored at the DGHS EPI cold chain storage.
Some 10,000 teams, consisting of six to eight members, will be deployed to carry out the vaccination process.
Former ICDDR,B research fellow Dr Rozen recommended that the mass media, such as television, newspaper, radio and social media, should be engaged to inform people about the advantages of the vaccine, encouraging them to act proactively.
He also added that engaging local leaders like imams of mosques and influential people should also be considered for the cause.
“We recommended the same things to control the virus spread as public health workers when the virus broke out. Now the vaccine is around the corner, we need to use the same sources to disseminate information about vaccines,” he said.