Bangladesh buying 2cr Sinopharm vaccines

The government is procuring around 20 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from China, using funds given by the Asian Development Bank, under bilateral arrangements.

The vaccines, manufactured by Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm, would start arriving in the country from early next year, said finance ministry officials.

To buy the doses, the government will use the remaining funds from the loan it had gotten from ADB, they said.

The Manila-based multilateral lender has already disbursed $894 million of the $940 million pledged for vaccine purchase as part of its “$9 billion Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility” launched in December last year.

Of the amount, the finance ministry used $741 to buy 105 million vaccine doses from two Chinese drugmakers under the global arrangement — Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility.

“Now we have around $153 million in hand. We will be spending money from the remaining funds to buy the vaccines under the bilateral arrangements,” said a top finance ministry official, preferring anonymity, adding that the cost of the vaccine doses cannot be disclosed.

Including the new 20 million doses, the government is procuring around 77 million vaccine shots from China under bilateral arrangements.

Although the country is supposed to get105 million doses by December, as promised by Covax, the schedule was revised further.

“We are already getting vaccines [under the Covax facility] and hope to get all the doses by the end of January,” the official said.

As of now, the government has administered the first dose to over 8.7 crore people while around 4.4 crore people got both doses.

So far, 25.89 percent of the country’s population has been inoculated with double doses. The target is to vaccinate 80 percent.

Along with adult and vulnerable groups, the government is now administering vaccines to children aged 12 years and above as well.

On Sunday, it started administering booster doses to health workers on a trial basis in Dhaka.

Bangladesh started the mass vaccination program on February 7 this year for people aged 65 and above with 70 lakh Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, produced by the Serum Institute of India.

However, the country suffered frequent hiccups in its mass inoculation campaigns mainly due to a shortage of doses caused by a gap between supply commitments and actual delivery.

The dearth in supply led to the suspension in administering the first dose on April 26.

The situation, however, improved as supplies started coming in from the US, China, and Japan, prompting the government to resume administering the first dose on June 19 on a limited scale, and then gradually expand.

At present, the government has a stock of some 4.45 crore doses, while two crores more will arrive next month, said Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday.

“There is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government has sought funds from ADB for turning Essential Drugs Company Limited in Gopalganj into an international vaccine institute.

The move came after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave instructions to equip the lone state-owned medicine manufacturer with modern facilities.

The regional lender, however, primarily agreed to lend around $400 million budgetary support in this regard, said finance ministry officials.