Bangladesh to offer 30m free vaccine doses to frontliners

Monday, 30 November 2020

The government has announced a plan to offer 30 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to frontline workers free of cost in the first phase of the vaccination process amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cabinet Secretary Khandaker Anwarul Islam gave the information while briefing the media on the latest initiatives to tackle a potential second wave of the coronavirus outbreak, reports bdnews24.com.

A proposal to procure 30 million doses of the vaccine candidate developed by AstraZeneca in collaboration with Oxford University was approved by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Oct 14, the cabinet secretary said.

He pointed out another deal between India's Serum Institute and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd of Bangladesh in this regard on November 5.

"On November 16, the finance department allocated Tk 7.35 billion for the health services directorate to buy the vaccine. Now, the proposal to buy the vaccine has been forwarded to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.”

Asked who will get the vaccine during the first phase, Anwarul said, "The World Health Organization has a guideline. They are developing a programme setting out who will get the vaccine first and who will get it in the second phase."

"Frontline workers - the police, the people in the administration who are working on the ground, then the elderly, the children - there is a protocol like this."

The secretary continued, “People will be given this vaccine free of cost. The government is subsidising the cost. Thirty million vaccine doses will be given for free.”

Asked what would happen if there was any irregularity in the distribution of the vaccine, Anwarul said, "If anyone commits corruption, let us know and we will take action."

But the actual cost of buying the vaccine will not be clear until a purchase agreement is finalised, according to Anwarul. The matter will be discussed by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on December 2.

"[The cabinet] has been presented with a lot more information about vaccines and they are in close keeping close tabs on it. We can't say which vaccine will be the most effective yet. Our number one condition is to abide by the protocols set out by the World Health Organization."

Asked about the trial of a potential vaccine candidate developed by the Chinese company Sinovac in Bangladesh, the cabinet secretary said, "They want a certain amount of money. The government has not agreed to pay that yet but the plans haven't been scrapped either."