Should BD produce, administer AstraZeneca vaccine?
Mixed bag of expert opinions
In the global battle against Covid-19, the vaccine made by Oxford-AstraZeneca has been a source of great hope. But over the past two weeks, the waters got particularly choppy. Many European countries suspended use of the shots after many recently vaccinated people developed unusual clotting disorders.
But in this situation, the Bangladesh government has asked AstraZeneca to allow production of the vaccine in Bangladesh and about this matter, experts have expressed different opinions.
A proposal has been sent to the British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to allow the production of the vaccine in Bangladesh.
Recently Health Minister Zahid Maleque has said, "We sent a letter to AstraZeneca requesting them to provide us with their technology so that we can produce the vaccine locally. We have that capability. "
"The government has asked AstraZeneca to supply seeds or a large quantity of vaccines. So that this low cost and widely used vaccine can be produced here," he added.
He further said, "Some pharmaceutical companies in our country have that capability. We have already seen some of those plants. They have the potential to produce the vaccine."
However, Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is easy to store-requiring only refrigeration, not a deep freeze and available to countries around the world at low cost.
But the vaccine's journey has been anything but smooth. The company's early efficacy claims were confusing and, in some cases, disappointing.
This week, Nederland, Canada and Germany, Sweden, Finland, and France in recommending against the vaccine's use in younger people, who seem to be at higher risk for the clotting problem and are less likely to develop severe Covid-19.
AstraZeneca has 20 partners in 15 countries to distribute the vaccine, as well as 20 testing sites. In addition, they have three vaccine factories in the United Kingdom and more than five in the European Union (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Spain).
The Serum Institute of India is the production partner of AstraZeneca in South Asia.
Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, like the Bioentech-Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, does not need to be stored at much lower temperatures. The vaccine can be stored, transported and used as needed for at least six months at room temperature (two to eight degrees Celsius).
However, experts have different opinion. Some think that it is a good initiative by the government and at the same time the government should also keep in touch with the inventors of other vaccines. And some other thinks that we should follow 'wait and see' rules.
Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the national advisory technical committee of Covid-19 and a noted virologist, said, "This is a critical situation. We should not do anything without observation. First of all, we have to follow 'wait and see' rules. As many of the countries have stopped applying Oxford-ASTRAZENECA vaccine for its side effects; so, we need to keep patience and observe the situation."
"If we get confirm notification from the legal authority about the effectiveness of the vaccine then we can go for production. Before that I think it won't be a good decision to go for producing the vaccine," he added.
Prof ABM Faruk, former dean of the pharmacy department of Dhaka University, said, 'The government has taken a very good initiative. But at the same time, they should contact other vaccine manufacturers, such as Sputnik Five."
"If pharmaceutical companies get the technology, it will be very good for Bangladesh because we are capable of producing vaccines. If we want, we can bring a large quantity of vaccines and do new packaging here, which could be another good initiative. We have some world-class pharmaceutical companies here and they are capable of producing vaccines," he said.
ASM Alamgir, Chief Scientific Officer of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said, "Stopping application of Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine is nothing but a world vaccine politics. In this case, if we have that capability to produce and got permission from the legal authority, obviously we should go for producing it. By this, we can protect ourselves by vaccinating our people as still we are not getting as much as we need and also we can export."
Earlier, on November 5, the Bangladesh government signed an agreement with Beximco Pharmaceuticals to purchase 30 million doses of Oxford-AstraZenec vaccine from the Serum Institute of India. Seven million doses of the vaccine have already reached Bangladesh in two shipments in January and February. The Oxford-AstraZeneca two million dose of vaccine given to Bangladesh as a gift from India arrived on January 21 and during visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh last month, also brought another 12 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift.