Jack Of All Trades
Covid vaccination resumes next week with small stock
Published : Wednesday, 16 June, 2021 at 12:00 AM Count : 483
After keeping suspended for nearly two months, caused by shortage, Bangladesh resumes mass inoculation from June 19 next as it has availed more than 1.2 million Covid vaccines from China and Covax programme. Six lakh Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine doses reached Dhaka from China on June 13 in addition to five lakh Sinopharm doses supplied earlier on May 12.
On May 1, the first consignment of 100,620 Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 doses was supplied to Bangladesh, which is supposed to receive a total of 68 million vaccine doses from the Covax facility. Covax is the vaccines pillar of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to Covid-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. Covax is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is the key delivery partner.
Bangladesh hopes to continue the vaccination at least to 50 million vulnerable people if the countries mainly, China, Russia and the United States along the COVAX keep their pledges by supplying the vaccines in time. However, Bangladesh has to move ahead whatever vaccines it will be able to collect.
Bangladesh has been facing vaccine shortage since Serum Institute of India (SII) halted export of AstraZeneca vaccines since March due to massive rise in infections and deaths in India. The SII supplied only seven million of AstraZeneca vaccines although Bangladesh had a contract of receiving 30 million vaccines in six months since January. India had supplied 3.3 million vaccines as gifts to Bangladesh. With the vaccine shortage, Bangladesh has been requesting different countries for Covid-19 vaccines, including the US, UK, China, Russia, Australia, Canada and European countries.
With 54 more deaths in last 24 hours ending at 8 am on Monday (June14) a total of 13,172 people died of the pandemic since its outbreak in the country in March last year. The total number of people infected so far was to 8,29,972, and out of them7,68,830 recovered, according the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). Amid the raging pandemic, authorities in Bangladesh are seemed to have been lacking concerted efforts to clarify some allegations raised by different quarters even within the government and the ruling Awami League (AL).
Weeks ago the Foreign Ministry alleged that the Health Ministry was too slow to handle the deal reached with China to procure vaccine. It said China was annoyed as the officials of the Health Ministry disclosed many secrets of the deal especially about vaccine price. The health ministry's inefficiency in preparing documents related to vaccine purchases has been delaying getting vaccines from China and Russia, said Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen last month while talking about various government efforts in acquiring vaccines urgently from various countries.
The inefficiency of the Health Ministry was exposed a new when senior reporter Rozina Islam was detained illegally at the Ministry for more than six hours recently, before handing her over to police at night. Subsequently police produced her before a court which bailed her out detaining her for six more days. However, on June 11 Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen in a message said Bangladesh was going to receive 1 million 800 shots of AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX programme.
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) On June 8 last in a report titled "Tackling Coronavirus Crisis: Good Governance Challenge in Covid-19 Vaccine Management" said there was a lack of good governance in Covid testing, healthcare, enforcement of health safety guidelines, infection prevention, planning and procurement of vaccines, and implementation of the vaccination campaign.
TIB Executive Director Iftekharuzzaman suggested for importing vaccine through both private and government organisations in line with the procurement rules and immediately allowing competent companies to produce vaccines locally in a transparent way. He said in importing AstraZeneca vaccines from SII through a third party the government violated four sections of the Public Procurement Rules 2008 as the purchase plan and notice on the agreement were not published.
Citing a recent TIB report he said at least 85 journalists were sued under the Digital Security Act for writing about the corruption and mismanagement in tackling the pandemic by the relevant authorities. Referring to this, Iftekharuzzaman said the government was a hundred times more active in controlling information than curbing corruption. He mentioned ordeal faced by journalist Rozina Islam at the hands of the Health Ministry bureaucrats and the law enforcers.
The TIB report said there was a lack of good governance in Covid testing, healthcare, enforcement of health safety guidelines, infection prevention, planning and procurement of vaccines, and implementation of the vaccination campaign. Meanwhile the Finance Ministry has also brought a fresh allegation of incompetence against the Health Ministry in utilizing allocated fund in healthcare improvement.
"I watched with surprise that the health ministry could not spend a major portion of the funds we gave them amid the pandemic," said Abdur Rouf Talukder, senior secretary to the finance division, at a seminar organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) styled "Normalising Masks: Health and Economic Implications," in the capital on June 9 last. Money was never a problem in combatting the public health crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic but the health ministry was unable to utilise the funds, he said.
In fiscal 2020-21, at least Tk 29,247 crore was allocated for the health ministry, and in the first 10 months, about a quarter of the sum was spent. There was another Tk 10,000 crore in block allocation for the sector, and that too sat idle. In the next fiscal year, Tk 32,731 crore has been assigned for the health sector. "We have no shortage of funds." The development partners have provided upwards of $2 billion for procuring vaccines, which is sitting in the pipeline, while from the government's own budget, there is another $1.2 billion.
On June 11 Jatiya Party Chairman and deputy leader of the opposition in parliament GM Quader said irresponsible decision of the government has led to the uncertainty in crores of people getting their Covid-19 vaccine shots. In a statement, the JP chief also said although the government is giving assurances everyday about coronavirus vaccine there is no visible success in this regard. GM Quader said Bangladesh is not finding success in vaccine diplomacy in the international arena.
He also said the normal course of vaccination is now uncertain as no alternative source was kept to collect the vaccine. "It is not clear whether 15 lakh people who have already taken first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, will now be able to get second shot." However, the foreign minister's statement issued on June 11 was a matter of encouragement as the country has been eagerly waiting for AstraZeneca vaccines when some 15 lakh people having their first jab have been worried whether they will get the second dose in time.
However, Health Minister Zahid Maleque on June 12 said the latest TIB report on the government's response to Covid-19 consisted of "wrong information from the first to the last." "When the health sector was praised worldwide during the coronavirus crisis, the TIB has published a false report on the health sector," Zahid Maleque said at an event in the city.
Refuting TIB report he said: "The number of Covid-19 testing lab has been increased to 510 from a single one while the number of beds is more than 15,000 now. There were only 200 ICU beds before Covid-19; now it has increased to more than 1,000." The minister also dismissed the TIB's claim of "transparency lacking" on the Covid-19 vaccine procurement procedure. Concerned people believe the authorities concerned should clarify all the allegations, to keep the unprecedented achievement of the incumbent government earned in its fourth and the third consecutive term, from being maligned.
The writer is Business Editor,
The Daily Observer