Some doses of Pfizer, Sputnik V and Sinopharm vaccines may arrive this month
The ongoing Covid-19 inoculation campaign in Bangladesh is set to go through some changes due to the nature of different vaccines, the Directorate General of Health Services has said.
The second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, which has so far been used exclusively to immunize the citizens of Bangladesh at free of cost, can be administered even 12 weeks after the first shot, according to experts.
On the other hand, the second dose of both China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines, recently approved by the government for emergency use, have to be administered three weeks after the first jab.
On top of the vaccination timeline, changes are also on the horizon for vaccination centers, storages and other necessary steps, according to the DGHS.
As stated in the deal signed with Serum Institute of India (SII), Bangladesh was supposed to receive five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine every month for six months.
SII suspended vaccine exports in late March owing to domestic demand at a time when Bangladesh was scheduled to get its third shipment.
Bangladesh has so far only received 10.2 million doses of the vaccine manufactured by SII, including 3.2 million doses as gifts in two phases from India, and the stock of vaccines in the country will be exhausted in the next few days.
Altogether 9,030,320 doses were administered till May 5, and the vaccine registration was halted on May 2.
Health Minister Zahid Malek said that some 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine would arrive in Bangladesh on May 10.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), on the other hand, expects four million Sputnik V doses to reach Bangladesh this month.
DGHS Additional Director General (Planning and Development) Dr Meerjady Sabrina Flora said that some adjustments needed to be made at the vaccination centers to administer Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines.
“Now that the AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered, it has to be considered whether there will be any hesitation about different vaccines. Moreover, the locations of the centers have yet to be revised,” Dr Flora, who is also the chairman of the vaccine deployment committee, said.
“The AstraZeneca vaccines are an absolute requirement to administer the second doses,” she added.
Meanwhile, Dr Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce of the DGHS, said that the second dose of the vaccine could be taken within a period of two to three months and the duration could be extended, if necessary.
Challenges posed by Pfizer vaccine
Some doses of the US-made Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine are expected to arrive in Bangladesh towards the end of May, according to the DGHS.
“... the Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -70°C. Adjustments are being planned accordingly,” Dr Meerjady said.
Stating that Bangladesh would receive 100,000 Pfizer vaccine doses, Dr Shamsul Haque said that there were no plans to administer it throughout the country.
“Storing them is a little challenging. Spots will be fixed considering whether there are facilities capable of storing them at -70°C,” he added.
Also Read - What we know about Sinopharm vaccine
“The storing method for each vaccine is different. Expiry dates also vary from vaccine to vaccine,” he added.
Vaccine stock running out
The inoculation campaign would continue as long as there were vaccines in stock, said Dr Meerjady.
According to a DGHS source, people will be given their second vaccine dose after around 12 weeks instead of eight weeks from May 16, provided that the next shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab does not arrive before that and the current stock lasts till then.
Mentioning that the government had stopped administering the first dose on April 26, Dr Meerjady said: “Then it will be eight weeks [since the first dose] on June 26, and if we administer the second dose after 12 weeks, we have till July 26 to do that.
“That is why we are not that worried. We are not anxious about people giving up on vaccination either.”
A spokesperson for Covid-19 management at the DGHS, Dr Mohammad Robed Amin, who is also line director of the DGHS NCDC unit, on Wednesday said: “The government had 10.2 million vaccine doses in hand. There will be a crisis if another shipment of vaccines does not arrive.”
However, a consignment of Chinese vaccines might arrive before Eid, he said, holding out hope.
Moreover, Renata Ltd has put in an application to import the Moderna vaccine from the US.