Middle-men may take advantage of online vaccine registration, private distribution could deny access to low-income group
There are several issues with Bangladesh’s vaccine deployment plan that need to be addressed, even though the plan is on the verge of being finalized, experts said at a virtual event on Friday.
Giving the vaccine to private companies may lead to problems in the distribution process, they added.
Addressing the event, Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director General (Health) Prof ABM Khurshid Alam said the plan was already undergoing some revisions as per recommendations from the Health Ministry at a meeting on Thursday.
Friday’s virtual event was organized by Doctors for Health and Environment.
Delivering a presentation at the event, Dr Sarwar Ibn Salam Romel said: “The government claims to have ensured over 90 million vaccine doses. this means we need another 170 million doses to cover the target population of over 130 million. If that is so, how is the government going to collect this many doses?”
He added that the time needed to conduct the vaccination drive is also a matter of concern.
Middle-men may take advantage of online vaccine registration
Dr Sarwar feared that middle-men may take advantage of people who are not tech-savvy by abusing the online vaccine registration process.
Dr Anis Siddique, head of immunization of Unicef Nigeria, said the efficacy and effectiveness of a vaccine is not the same thing.
Praising the decision to bring in the Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca) vaccine from the Serum Institute of India, he said Bangladesh needs to bring in more vaccines that match the immunization program capacity of the country.
In addition, Dr Anis Siddique raised questions about the vaccine priority list.
“We need to revise the priority list to ensure that all of those who have first priority are regularly at risk of coming into direct contact with infected persons,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of conducting every step of the immunization process properly, to ensure that no vaccine doses go to waste. “Maintaining an ultra-cold chain for immunizations requires a lot of skill, and the vaccine would be useless if it is not administered properly.”
Communist Party of Bangladesh General Secretary Ruhin Hossain Prince recommended more measures to raise awareness of the vaccination program among the public.
He also expressed fear that the vaccination program may eventually end up under the control of the private sector, leading to less access for people from the low-income group.
Dr Sanya Tahmina Jhora, former additional DG (Planning and Development) of DGHS, said she witnessed mass cases of psychogenic illness during vaccination drives in her tenure, especially among girls and women, and there is a chance for similar problems during the Covid-19 vaccination program.
Regarding the involvement of the private sector in vaccination, she said it depends on the capability of the health sector to vaccinate all citizens.
She also mentioned that instructions have been issued to ensure vaccines for the private sector only after government vaccination has been completed.
DGHS DG Prof ABM Khurshid Alam addressed the event as the fourth speaker due to an emergency.
Regarding the transport of the vaccine, he said: “Beximco informed us that they would need two days to complete all the paperwork after arrival of the vaccine at their warehouse. After that, they will take vaccines to the upazilas where we have ILR fridges for storage.”
He also said there are plans to issue bulletins to keep the people informed about the state of vaccine distribution.
Dr Jalal Ahmed said it was surprising that the government was deploying a private company to distribute the vaccine when the government itself has a well-organized cold chain.
Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement and former president of BMA, also attended the program, among others.
Not all pharmaceuticals will be permitted to import vaccines
Prof ABM Khurshid said the Health Ministry will only issue import permissions to pharmaceuticals who are capable of bringing in and preserving the vaccines.
A guideline on the matter will be finalized soon and the DGDA has been tasked with identifying the companies that meet the parameters, he added.
“A meeting with the companies will take place on Sunday at the DGDA,” The DGHS DG said.
He added the health authorities do not have the capability to distribute the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in remote areas of the country, so it will only be administered in urban areas.