Jack Of All Trades
Bangladesh turns desperate for Covid vaccine
Published : Wednesday, 5 May, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 330
Procurement of effective vaccine to protect its people from the infection of the mass killer, the Covid-19 pandemic, has emerged as the prime challenge for Bangladesh after Serum Institute of India (SII) stopped exporting AstraZeneca vaccine violating the deal signed late last year.
SII has been compelled to suspend the export as the infection spiked across India killing record number of people. The deteriorating situation in India has warranted emergency supply of oxygen and other materials from USA, UK and several other countries, after the South Asian giant become unable to tackle the situation with its local resources. Bangladesh also offered to dispatch some medicine and personal protective equipment to India.
Coronavirus cases and deaths have started surging in India over the past several weeks and the world's second-most populous country has reported more than 400,000 new infections and 3,689 deaths, hitting another global record on May 2 last. Bangladesh, which is one of the pioneer countries to start public vaccination, has suspended administering the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine amid uncertainty over the timely arrival of shipments from India.
However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May 2 reaffirmed that her government would procure vaccines at any cost to protect people from Covid-19. "We're bringing more vaccines; no matter how much money is required, we'll bring more vaccines," she said. The Prime Minister said this while providing cash support of Tk 2,500 to each of 36.5 lakh low-income families engaged in different occupations so that they can survive amid the pandemic.
Most people, having confidence in her government think that she will be able to procure vaccines for the people of the country, as she had fulfilled her all past commitments given to the people. They remember that earlier her government successfully implemented many unimplementable decisions including digitisation of the country and execution of the top collaborators of Pakistan occupational army for their crimes against humanity, committed during Bangladesh Liberation War 1971. Her government also transformed the Bangladesh, which once was a basket case, into a power and food surplus country, with sufficient foreign exchange reserves adopting pragmatic economic policies.
Bangladesh suspended the inoculation from Monday, April 26 until further notice due to a stock shortage of the vaccine, but the administration of the second dose will continue as planned, according to an official notification. Till May 2 last, Bangladesh registered 11,644 deaths with total infection of 763,682 people. However, of the infected people 691,162 recovered, according to www.covid.visualizer.com.
Meanwhile, the government is working to get the remaining doses on time from India under the tripartite agreement, according to official statements. Bangladesh signed an agreement with the SII of India for 30 million doses--5 million jabs every month from January to June 2021. It has paid for 15 million jabs, but received only 7 million so far. Besides, New Delhi has gifted Dhaka 3 million doses. It began its vaccination drive in February. About 5.8 million people have received their first dose, while 2.3 million have been fully vaccinated until April 30.
India has diverted vaccine supplies for domestic consumption amid a record rise in coronavirus infections and deaths, leading to shortages of oxygen, life-saving drugs and hospital beds. On May 2 India's total death figure reached 221,666 and total infection was 20,237,781. Of the infected people 16,562,794 recoverd, said www.covid.visualizer.com.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh closed its border with India, halting all passenger movement for the next 14 days. The decision was taken in view of the rapid increase of coronavirus infections in India.
Subsequently in its desperate move Bangladesh has signed a COVID-19 vaccine co-production agreement with Russia in an effort to continue its inoculation campaign. The country is much eagerly trying to find more vaccine sources as its mass inoculation programme that began in February has been hit hard since the SII suspended the supply. Prior to the suspension SII was the only source of vaccines for Bangladesh, following a tripartite agreement signed among SII, Bangladesh government and Beximco Pharmaceuticals, the sole agent of SII in the country.
Russia and Bangladesh recently signed an agreement to manufacture Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in Bangladesh on a co-production arrangement. Bangladesh will purchase vaccines commercially from Russia apart from the co-production. But there is a condition that Bangladesh will not share the vaccine production formula with others. The vaccine produced under the agreement can be exported to any third country. Bangladesh has already provided Russia with a list of companies capable of producing vaccines in Bangladesh.
The desperate Bangladesh also agreed to join a new platform initiated by China for an emergency coronavirus vaccine. India, however, was excluded from the initiative. China has agreed to initially 600,000 doses of vaccines as a gift, according to Bangladesh Foreign Ministry. Meanwhile Bangladesh on April 27 approved the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use against COVID-19, signaling that clearance for China's Sinopharm shot would follow very soon.
As the pandemic raging across the world almost unabated, different countries have launched the biggest vaccination campaign in history. More than 1.13 billion doses have been administered across 174 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg and updated on May 1. The latest rate was roughly 20 million doses a day. Enough doses have now been administered to fully vaccinate 7.4% of the global population--but the distribution has been lopsided. Countries with the highest incomes are getting vaccinated about 25 times faster than those with the lowest.
According to a report published by The New York Times on April 29 last more than 1.08 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, equal to 14 doses for every 100 people. There is already a stark gap between vaccination programmes in different countries, with some yet to report a single dose.
According to the report Bangladesh inoculated 5.2 people per 100, totaling 8,517,801 so far. The data is compiled from government sources by the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford. A vaccinated person refers to someone who has received at least one dose of a vaccine, and a fully vaccinated person has received all required doses of a vaccine. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, a person who is "fully vaccinated" has received two doses.
While vaccine doses remain relatively scarce globally, most countries have focused their early vaccination efforts on priority groups like the clinically vulnerable; people in their 60s, 70s and older; and front-line workers, like doctors and nurses. There is also a striking divide between continents. Africa has the slowest vaccination rate of any continent, with some countries yet to start mass vaccination campaigns.
Less wealthy countries are relying on a vaccine-sharing arrangement called Covax, which aims to provide two billion doses by the end of the year. 83 per cent of shots that have gone into arms worldwide have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Only 0.2 per cent of doses have been administered in low-income countries. Most of the vaccines currently in use require two doses for a patient to be fully vaccinated.
Scientists believe existing vaccines will help control the variant when it comes to preventing severe disease. Some variants will inevitably escape the current vaccines, according to a paper published in Nature by Prof Gupta and his fellow researchers.
Bangladesh is determined to procure vaccines and the people are looking forward to seeing whether Covid-hit China and Russia honor their commitment or shatter Bangladesh's bid to acquire vaccines for its people. Bangladesh may give time to India and its SII as the current pandemic situation in their country is beyond control. But when situation will become near to normal India must see that SII honors the deal it signed with Bangladesh, its trusted friend on the earth.
The writer is Business Editor, The Daily Observer