The government is eyeing 4.5 million vaccine doses from Russia, China; Renata seeks to import Moderna vaccine from the US
Nearly one and a half million people will have to wait for the next consignment of Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, for their second dose under the government’s free vaccination program.
Bangladesh administered around 8.84 million doses of vaccine doses till Monday, and it has 1.45 million doses in hand. A crisis is looming since it needs 2.79 million doses more to complete the procedure.
According to the government’s Covid-19 vaccination update, more than 100,000 doses are administered every working day across the country.
On Monday, some 86,926 people got their second dose. If the vaccination continues at the same pace, the stock will run out within 10 working days. It means some 1.34 million recipients will need to wait for their second dose.
The health authorities have already administered 5.81 million vaccines as the first dose and 3.02 million as the second dose.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) was forced to suspend administering the first dose on April 26.
One of the spokespersons for Covid-19 management at DGHS, Dr Mohammad Robed Amin, who is also Line Director of the NCDs Unit, told Dhaka Tribune on Monday: “If more than one lakh people are vaccinated every day, the remaining vaccines can be administered for around 7 to 10 days.”
Serum Institute of India (SII) suspended the export of the Covishield vaccine in late March when Bangladesh was scheduled to get its third consignment.
Via Beximco Pharmaceuticals, Bangladesh was supposed to get 30 million vaccines from SII in six instalments within six months. It has received only seven million vaccines in two instalments. Besides, India has given Bangladesh 3.3 million vaccines as a gift. This is the largest amount of vaccines sent by India to any country.
The first shipment of five million doses arrived in January while the second consignment of two million vaccines came in February.
The government maintains that the import of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine may resume soon, and, hence, the same vaccine can be administered as the second dose.
The World Health Organization (WHO), however, has not issued any guidelines on mixed vaccination.
Vaccine from other sources
The government recently approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use in the country.
Officials believe that the country may get four million doses of the Russian vaccine within May.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday said that Bangladesh would receive 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China as a gift by May 10.
Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) Director General Mahbubur Rahman said that three local pharmaceutical companies – Incepta, Popular, and Healthcare – were in consideration for possible production of the vaccine in the country.
DGHS Director General Dr ABM Khurshid Alam on Monday said that Renata Limited had applied to the government, seeking permission to import Moderna Covid-19 vaccines from the US.
He added that the documents submitted by Renata had been sent to the DGDA for evaluation of their capacity to import, handle and transport the vaccine. “The Moderna vaccine has to be stored at low temperatures, which is difficult. If they have the capacity, the DGHS has the capacity to store it in Dhaka,” he added.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Moderna vaccine must be stored between -15 degrees Celsius and -50 degrees Celsius. The DGHS has the capacity to store them in Dhaka.
Renata CEO and Managing Director Syed S Kaiser Kabir could not be reached for comments on the matter.
When contacted, Renata Company Secretary Jubayer Alam said that the firm had submitted the application on April 20. “We have applied for no-objection certificates [NOCs] to bring in the Moderna as well as the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines [from the US],” he added.
Asked if Renata had been in contact with the manufacturers, Jubayer Alam said that Renata would sit with the companies once they had secured the NOCs. “It is still unclear when we will be able to import the vaccines.”