Thank you India
Last Thursday our government received two million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine as a gift from India. The Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, Vikram Kumar Doraiswami handed over the vaccines to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Health Minister Zahid Maleque at an official ceremony held at the State guesthouse Padma.
It is heartening to note that our biggest next-door neighbour and an important traditional ally, India, have once again reaffirmed its commitment to combat the pandemic together. Additionally, the 'Vaccine diplomacy' of two million doses as gift also has a humane side to it, and India has successfully seized the opportunity, coming forward to prove a humanitarian obligation as well.
We profoundly thank the Indian government and its people for the valuable gift. It is another sign of a strong bonding between the two nations. Not only Bangladesh, within the neighbourhood separate Indian flights carrying vaccines were also sent to Nepal, the Maldives and Bhutan. It shows the Indian government to be in perfectly in tuned with its "Neighbourhood First' policy". Our government approved the emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine earlier this month.
Now the challenge would be to ensure and strictly monitor the vaccination process to prevent corruption and mismanagement. A 'vaccine bulletin' will be published regularly by the Health Ministry in this regard. Additionally, around 42,000 health workers are being trained for vaccination. Moreover, an app for vaccine registration and distribution is in the final stage of completion under the ICT Ministry.
According to health authorities, at first 400 to 500 people will be given the shots at different hospitals during an initial observation phase. The recipients of the vaccines will be observed for 7 days before the government fully rolls out its countrywide vaccination campaign. However, the question surrounding safety is of utmost importance, and especially with a vaccine that has been developed in less than a year amid the deadly pandemic.
Apart from addressing complex and large-scale logistical issues of the vaccination process, there is also a technical side of storing the vaccine which must be ensured. It can be safely stored at temperatures of 2C to 8C, about the same as a domestic refrigerator. We believe our health authorities have already made necessary arrangements to store huge consignments of imported vaccine under required temperature.
Finally, with another big thanks to our Indian friends, the primary challenge right now is to carefully monitor how the first batch of recipients responds to the vaccine and adopt necessary safety measures accordingly.