No plan to ‘mix and match’ different vaccines yet, say DGHS officials
Although there is uncertainty over the arrival of a fresh consignment of the Covid-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India (SII), Bangladesh’s health authorities have said those who have received the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine made by SII will receive the same for their second dose.
Amid confusion about whether jabs of any other Covid-19 vaccine - Sputnik V and Sinopharm, recently approved by the government for emergency use in Bangladesh - will be used as the second dose instead of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) chief Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam said they had no such plan.
The first dose administration of the Covid vaccine is currently on hold due to a shortage of vaccine doses in the country, caused by the pause in supply from SII owing to the ongoing Covid crisis in India.
DGHS Director (Disease Control) Prof Dr Nazmul Islam, who is the spokesperson for the health directorate, in the daily Covid-19 health bulletin on Monday confessed that there was a shortage of vaccine doses right now, and so the authorities were considering a 12-week interim period between administering the doses.
“We are hopeful that before the interim period between vaccine doses ends, we will receive the consignment [from SII]. If we do not get it by then, we will decide how people should be vaccinated,” said DGHS chief Prof Dr ABM Khurshid Alam.
For now, the health authorities have given up the idea of using the mix and match strategy of administering different Covid-19 vaccines for the second dose due to having no scientific research on it, and having no guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO).
According to the DGHS, some 3.1 million people got both doses of vaccine while some 2.71 million people are waiting to receive their second jabs.
The health authorities still have around 1.37 million vaccines in hand. Therefore, the country needs around 1.34 million doses more of vaccines to vaccinate all the people who have already taken the first dose of the vaccine.
According to recent estimation, around 100,000 people are taking the vaccine every day, which means vaccine doses could be administered only for another 13-15 days more.
On Tuesday, Planning Minister MA Mannan said considering the Covid-19 situation in India, the agreement to import the Covid-19 vaccine from SII had become ineffective in a sense.
He said: "There is no legal way out of the deal. Our position is very strong in all legal aspects. But they have no vaccine, no oxygen. Huge numbers of people are dying every day. In this state we do not expect them to provide the vaccine to us.”
In the meantime, vaccines from new sources would arrive and administration of first doses would begin again and so there will be no interruption in the vaccination program, said a DGHS official involved with the vaccination program.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, quoting Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming, told UNB that the Chinese government was working to start delivering Covid-19 vaccine doses before Eid-ul-Fitr even though a five-day May Day holiday was ongoing in China.
Earlier, Health Minister Zahid Maleque spoke of a more specific date – May 10. China was supposed to give 500,000 doses of vaccines as a gift apart from supplying vaccines through commercial purchase.