The government will provide the vaccine for free and it will only be administered at public hospitals
The much awaited shipment of two million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines gifted by India will arrive in the country on Thursday afternoon.
The government plans to inoculate as many as six million people in the first month as the gifted vaccines as well as the first consignment of five million doses from Serum Institute of India (SII) will arrive in the country within January.
The government will provide the vaccine for free and it will only be administered at government hospitals.
According to Health Service Division Secretary Abdul Mannan, some 80 to 90 million people will be vaccinated, while around 70 million will not be included for several reasons.
He also said that a dry run on 400-500 people would be conducted at four hospitals in Dhaka before the nationwide vaccination program got underway.
The health secretary in a press briefing at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Wednesday said the vaccines would arrive in Bangladesh by an Air India flight at 1:30pm.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said along with the two million doses, an additional one and a half million vaccines were going to arrive as part of the first consignment of the private purchase by Beximco pharmaceuticals ltd.
70m people not in consideration for vaccine
The health secretary gave a rough estimate, where he said around 70 million people in the country would not be vaccinated.
He said people with co-morbidity or people taking medicine that exposed them to more risks, pregnant women, and people aged under 18 would not be considered eligible for vaccination.
“Around 37% of the people in the country are aged under 18. Besides, we estimated some five million women are pregnant or at lactation stage, and over 10 million are working abroad. So, we primarily calculated that we do not need to vaccinate around 70 million people,” Abdul Mannan mentioned.
“We need to vaccinate some 80 to 90 million people although we plan to vaccinate around 70-80% of the total population,” the secretary added.
“The government has ensured vaccines for some 45 million people while we continue our search for a further supply of vaccines. We are hoping that we will get a local vaccine [Bangavax] by June or July. If that happens then our problem will be much easier to solve,” the government official said.
The vaccination program inauguration
Although the two million vaccines will arrive earlier, the vaccination program will start when the first consignment from SII arrives.
The vaccination campaign will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina virtually while the vaccine will be administered at Kurmitola General Hospital on the first day, Abdul Mannan said.
He, however, could not confirm the date, saying it would depend on the schedule of the prime minister.
On the first day, 20-25 individuals, including health care professionals as well as members of the police and army, civil society members like teachers and freedom fighters, will receive vaccines
“We are working on the list,” the health secretary added.
Initially, the vaccine will be stored at the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) depot in Tejgaon. Later the vaccines will be transported to districts and upazilas in frozen containers.
Dry run before nationwide vaccination
The health secretary said a dry run would be conducted on 400-500 people at four tertiary level hospitals in the capital to observe if there were any adverse side effects.
The dry-run will be conducted on January 27 or 28, as per primary decision, at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Mugda Medical College and Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital, and Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital.
Vaccine recipients under the dry run program will be kept under observation for a week, Abdul Mannan said.
If everything went according to plan, the government would be able to start the vaccination drive from the first week of February, the health secretary said.
“Some six million people will be vaccinated in the first month and five million in the second. Then the first six million people will receive their second dose of vaccination in the third month,” he added.
The vaccination deployment plan would be finalized by today [Wednesday], Abdul Mannan mentioned.
Private vaccination yet to get approval
The health secretary said the authorities were only using the hospitals as vaccination centres to ensure anyone experiencing an adverse impact after receiving the vaccine got immediate treatment.
A physician would also be assigned at every hospital to look after them, he added.
Asked about the possible complication of using the same apps for government and private vaccination programs, the secretary said private vaccination had not yet been approved.
Several first-tier medical hospitals like United Hospital, Square Hospitals, Lab Aid and so on are already taking preparation to be used as a private vaccination centre, he said.
“We are imposing dozens of conditions like what would be the environment, if they have enough manpower, where the vaccine receiver would be taken, and who will take charge of overseeing the side effects. Still we have not approved them,” he added.
A decision would be taken soon in this regard, the secretary said.
Meanwhile, although the private vaccination is yet to get approval, the first consignment of privately purchased vaccines will also arrive on Thursday.
Adverse impact monitoring through apps
ICT Division Senior Secretary NM Zeaul Alam said the vaccine registration app, meant for registering candidates online, will be handed over to the Health Ministry on January 25.
The programmers of the ICT Division present at the briefing said they were working to incorporate monitoring patients experiencing adverse impact of the vaccine through the app.
“We are hoping to finish it within January 31,” said Harun-or-Rashid, programmer of the division.
Earlier, in his speech, the health secretary said government officials would check up on the vaccine recipients to ensure they were not facing any side effects during the interim period of the two doses of the vaccine.
The Director General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, said: “It is normal for some side effects to occur after vaccination … the media must play a vital role in dispelling mistrust.”