Covid-19: Shortage of vaccines, interruption in planning

Due to severe breathing problem Azizul Haque was brought to the DMCH from Brahmanbaria. As the ICU beds were not available, he was admitted to the general ward with a separate oxygen cylinder.

Due to severe breathing problem Azizul Haque was brought to the DMCH from Brahmanbaria. As the ICU beds were not available, he was admitted to the general ward with a separate oxygen cylinder. 
Hasan Raja

The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) does not have enough vaccines to administer the second dose of the vaccines to those who have taken the first dose.

Nobody can say when the next consignment will arrive. In this situation, the plans regarding the national vaccination drive are not being implemented properly.

The vaccination drive for the first and second dose of coronavirus is going on simultaneously in the country. As many as 221,616 people took the coronavirus jab on Saturday. Among them, some 12,157 people took the first dose and 221,616 people took the second dose.

Meanwhile, the stock of coronavirus vaccines has been decreasing rapidly. Till yesterday, the stock of coronavirus vaccines in the country was 3,449,191doses.

She, however, said a high level discussion is being held on importing the vaccines from India.

Not going on according to plan

National Covid-19 vaccine response plan is working as the guideline in administering vaccines across the country. This plan has been designed by DGHS according to the guideline of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The plan suggests administering the vaccines to frontline workers on priority basis. Besides, the government declared that any citizen above 40 can register for vaccination. The age limit would be reduced further gradually.

According to the plan, some 3 per cent of the people were supposed to get the vaccine in the first phase of the first stage and 7 per cent in the second phase of the first stage. It means that as many as 17,280,000 people were supposed to be vaccinated in the first stage.

The DGHS had finished the vaccination of 3 per cent or people or 5.18 million (51 lakh 84 thousand) in the first stage last week. The administration of the second dose of coronavirus started after that.

According to the scientists, the permanent effective solution to fight a pandemic is a mass vaccination programme. The vaccination started in the country on 7 February. At the time people had high interest on the vaccination drive. However, due to various uncertainties, the interest among the people has waned. The number of people registering for the vaccine is much less than before. Only 1,638 people registered for the vaccine on Saturday, whereas even 50,000 people had registered in some days during the early period of vaccination drive.

Deals and receipts

Bangladesh is using the vaccines invented by the scientists of Oxford. India’s Serum Institute is producing the vaccine named “Covishield”. The government has a tripartite deal to purchase 30 million doses of vaccines from the company. The third party in this pact is Beximco Pharmaceuticals. According to the pact, Beximco would deliver 5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to the DGHS each month from Serum Institute.

Beximco supplied 5 million of vaccine doses in January and two million in February.

The delivery of 3 million doses in February and 5 million doses in March is still pending. The persons concerned said Beximco is saying that the rest of the vaccines will arrive. However, they still cannot confirm when they will deliver the rest of the vaccines as per the agreement.

Bangladesh in total received some 10.03 million (1 crore and 3 lakh) doses of coronavirus vaccine. With these vaccines, 51,50,000 people can be vaccinated.

However, the DGHS has already administered the first dose of the vaccine to some 5.69 million (56 lakh 99 thousand 42) people. New people are still getting the first dose every day. The vaccination drive for the second dose is also going on simultaneously. On an average, around 200,000 people were vaccinated every day last week. Till Saturday, the stock of coronavirus vaccine in the country was 3,449,191doses. If the vaccination drive continues at the same pace like last week, the rest of the vaccines will be finished within two weeks. It has been feared that many of the people, who have taken the first dose, would not be able to get the second dose unless the rest of the vaccine as per the agreement is not available.

Nazmul Hasan, president of Beximco Pharmaceuticals told Prothom Alo on Saturday night that we have been informed that the Serum Institute will need a permission from the Indian government to deliver the remaining vaccines as per the deal. They will be able to comment on this issue on Monday or a day after that.

Other sources also uncertain

Right from the beginning, the pharmacists and public health experts were saying that the government should explore more than one source for the coronavirus vaccines. Depending on a singular source might be risky.

Health minister Zahid Maleque has repeatedly spoken about the government’s efforts to collect vaccines at various events and meetings in the last few months. He said various companies and countries producing vaccines were being contacted. Adequate funds are also allocated for the purchase of vaccines.

On the other hand, the officials of the DGHS do not know the exact time of receiving the vaccine from Covax, a global initiative for the collection and distribution of coronavirus vaccine.

They say the vaccine will be available at some point this year. However, there is no possibility of that before June.

In every country where the coronavirus vaccine is being administered, the first dose is given to those only after ensuring their second dose.

Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the pharmacology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told Prothom Alo, “The government might ensure the second dose for the people who have taken the first dose. Otherwise, it would be a great injustice for those people.”

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo online and print editions, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu.

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