Second shipment of Covid-19 vaccine to arrive on February 22, says Beximco
The country’s health authorities expect another 7-8 million doses of Covishield vaccines to arrive by the first week of March.
Of them, 2-3 million will be received as part of the second consignment of the purchased Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, possibly on February 22.
Another 5 million doses – also from Serum Institute of India (SII) – will arrive as part of the World Health Organization-led scheme, Covax .
Confirming the matter, Director General (DG) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Prof Dr Khurshid Alam, while speaking to the media yesterday, said: “According to Beximco Pharma, the possible date for the arrival of the second consignment will be February 22.”
He, however, said the DGHS had not been informed about the amount of the vaccines but was told that the number would be less.
The DGHS DG could not specify the reason behind the reduced number of vaccines in the second consignment. He, however, said that it might be because of a mismatch in production and global demand.
The second consignment of vaccines will arrive under the agreement Bangladesh signed with SII through Beximco Pharmaceuticals to procure 30 million doses of the Covishield vaccine.
On January 21, Dhaka received 2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines as a gift from India.
On January 25, Bangladesh received the first consignment of 5 million doses of Covishield, the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India (SII).
Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, after getting a shot at Kurmitola General Hospital, said that some 2 to 3 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccine would arrive in Bangladesh on February 22.
Regarding the vaccines under the Covax program, he said they would arrive any time between the last week of February and the first week of March.
“The quantity of the vaccine [Covax program] would be 5 million. They might not be sent in a single consignment but in phases,” he added.
No private vaccine purchase from SII for now
Beximco Pharmaceuticals MD Nazmul Hassan Papon said Covid-19 vaccine under private management (from Serum institute) would not arrive for now.
"No initiative has been taken yet to bring the Covid-19 vaccine under private management as everyone is getting the vaccine free of cost. So, there is no need to bring the vaccine under private management now," he said.
Beximco Pharma is the exclusive distributor of the vaccine in Bangladesh and will be responsible for maintaining the cold chain, import, storage and delivery of the vaccine to the upazila level Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) Storage.
Foreign Minister Abdul Momen had on January 20 stated that 1.5 million doses would come through the private sector, a quantity that has not arrived till now.
In November last year, the government of Bangladesh, Beximco Pharma and SII reached a tripartite agreement to buy 30 million doses of Covishield, SII's brand name for the vaccine developed by Oxford University and British-Swedish pharma giants AstraZeneca.
Under the agreement, the Bangladesh government will pay SII for the 30 million doses of the vaccine while Beximco Pharma will receive a separate fee for its distribution role.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine was proven to be safe with no major side-effects reported throughout human trials. It generates strong antibody and T-cells response for long-term immunity against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
In June 2020, SII signed an agreement with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and GAVI to produce 1 billion doses of AZD1222 under the brand name Covishield, mainly for supply to developing countries.
Coronavirus vaccination in Bangladesh
The government launched a countrywide Covid-19 vaccination drive on February 7.
Doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that Bangladesh brought from India's Serum Institute have been sent to hospitals around the country to make the inoculation drive a success.
Physicians and nurses have been trained to carry out the vaccination drive. So far, top government officials, cabinet members, judges, police, along with general people, have received the vaccine.
After the first dose, the second one has to be taken within 8 to 12 weeks.
The DGHS expects around 8m vaccines to arrive by the first week of March.