Vaccination against Covid-19: Bangladesh a model

The Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Bangladesh has so far proven to be a real triumph.

What began amidst a cloud of skepticism some 14 months ago has moved forward, thanks to the government’s quick thinking, smart diplomacy and people’s enthusiasm to land the hits that would offer them protection against serious illnesses due to the coronavirus.

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The World Health Organization has set a goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population with a two-dose regimen by the middle of 2022.

As of April 6, Bangladesh had administered one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to 75.25% of the population, two doses to 67.37% and three doses to 9.10%, figures that are the envy of many countries. upper middle income.

“People say the government’s vaccination program has been a success,” Health Minister Zahid Maleque told the Daily Star recently.

It is thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign that the economy is booming, stores are full of customers, students are back in classrooms, and social and religious activities are unhindered, did he declare.

And despite the return to normal, infections and deaths have remained low. For example, Bangladesh yesterday reported only 48 new infections and, for the fourth consecutive day, no deaths from Covid-19.

“The way we were able to run the vaccination program is an example to the world. I don’t know if any country in the world could administer a crore of vaccine doses in a single day,” the minister said, adding that almost all eligible people received two injections of the vaccine.

But it hasn’t always been easy.

The rollout of the vaccine in Bangladesh began in January last year with doses of AstraZeneca purchased from the Serum Institute of India via Beximco Pharmaceuticals and commitments of 6.8 crore doses from Covax, a WHO-supported program to provide vaccines to developing countries by 2021.

After delivering less than a third of the three crore doses agreed earlier, Serum halted deliveries in April last year following an export ban imposed by the Indian government following a devastating wave of coronavirus cases in neighboring country.

Covax’s commitment to provide vaccines to low-income countries has also failed due to “vaccine nationalism” in high-income countries.

The twin developments had put the government’s vaccination program in a bind.

But it forced the government to dig deep for a new strategy. He wooed nations through diplomatic channels for injections, particularly AstraZeneca vaccines, and also decided to purchase 7.7 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.

Soon the vaccines started flowing in and the campaign gathered pace.

Supplies are only part of an immunization campaign; distribution and delivery are the other aspects, where many countries have fallen short.

To ensure that the vaccines are injected into as many arms of the target population, the government has organized several special campaigns. The result was that people flocked to vaccination centers.

As of March 27, Bangladesh had received 29.64 million doses from various sources, including gifts and Covax cost-sharing agreements, according to a report prepared by the Ministry of Health on the status of immunization.

The government has purchased 9.2 crore doses of vaccines – 1.5 crore from Serum and 7.7 crore from Sinopharm – under bilateral agreements.

In addition, the country received 9.62 crore donations from Covax, 8.71 crores from cost sharing agreement with Covax and 2.1 crores donations from surplus countries.

The government has spent about Taka 13,311 crore on the procurement and transport of vaccines, according to the Ministry of Finance’s cost estimate.

The amount includes $741 million of the $940 million the government secured from the Asian Development Bank as a loan.

About $75 million was paid to Serum for the 1.5 crore doses of Covishield vaccines and another $550 million was spent on the purchase of vaccines under bilateral agreements.

The government is currently considering readjusting the allocation for the purchase of vaccines, a finance ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

There are enough doses, so the remaining $200 million of the AfDB loan might not be needed.

“We have enough stock on hand. What we need now is to administer the vaccines as soon as possible. Otherwise, the vaccines may expire,” a health ministry official said. preferring anonymity.

Rebecca R. Santistevan