Like many other countries, Bangladesh is also putting much effort into rolling out a vaccine to intensify the fight against deadly coronavirus. The government has already arranged to get 30 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII). Bangladesh is also expecting to get some 68 million doses in 2021 from the GAVI Alliance under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility of COVAX facility of the World Health Organisation. Initially, some vaccine of Pfizer-BioNTech may be available under the facility.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals, a leading pharma company in the country, is appointed as the sole distributor of the Indian version of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It is labelled as Covishield in India and developed by the SII. However, uncertainty on the vaccine's availability emerged due to conflicting moves and statements by the relevant quarters. Lack of clear communication also reflects the non-transparency mechanism of procuring or collecting the much-required vaccine. Some speculations on non-availability of the vaccine also spread in the air creating a lack of trust.
By dismissing the speculations, both senior government officials and head of Beximco asserted that the first consignment of the vaccine would arrive in the third week of this month. To stop the speculations on non-availability of committed vaccines, the government also has intensified its effort to open more channel to procure vaccines from other sources. It has also approved Global Biotech, a local entity, to produce its home-grown coronavirus vaccine for a human trial.
Nevertheless, the whole thing indicates the lack of preparation and coordination to manage the country's Covid vaccination. Bangladesh has already proved her success in child immunisation. It has also established infrastructural backbone to inoculate millions. Chaos in Covid testing arrangement from the beginning showed that the existing network and health infrastructure are not duly functional. A lack of confidence emerged from there. Moreover, corruption on the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and mishandling of hundreds and thousands of factory workers during the lockdown period in last year also raised questions on pandemic management efficiency. So it is not easy to be assured that the vaccination will go smoothly.
Against the backdrop, delay in availing of the vaccine may not be a matter of disappointment considering the low rate of infections and mortality in Bangladesh. Instead, a hectic effort is needed to prepare the logistic and workforce to run the vaccination properly once it arrives in the country. Covid vaccine is a new type of vaccine which requires sufficient cold chain transport and storage facilities. Health workers need to be trained to handle and inject the vaccine properly. The registration process for vaccination should be flexible and must not be only mobile phone app-based.
The country is also probably not in an emergency that required an untested vaccine. The government instead needs to go for a test run before the rollout of vaccine across the country. The test run will help understand the vaccine's reaction and side effects on the human body and preparedness for full-fledged vaccination.