A consignment of 106,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine under the global programme, COVAX, will be received by Bangladesh.
It was stated by the government that the consignment under the programme co-led by the World Health Organization and global vaccine alliance GAVI will arrive on June 2.
It was confirmed by the COVAX that the development to Health Minister Zahid Maleque on May 18, stated Maidul Islam, a spokesman for the ministry.
The country expects 68 million doses of COVID vaccines from the WHO-led facility to cover 20 per cent of the population with 2 doses per citizen.
The COVAX facility, in an interim distribution forecast published in February 2021, stated that Bangladesh will get nearly 12.8 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, in the first half of 2021.
Bangladesh earlier had also supplied the Pfizer vaccine from an initial volume of 1.2 doses under COVAX. But the country was not shortlisted by COVAX for the doses.
Based on the limited quantity of doses available, the list of participants for the Pfizer vaccine was pared down via a WHO-led review process.
Complexities were considered by the WHO related to the rolling-out of vaccines requiring ultra-cold chains while reviewing the application.
Presently, Bangladesh is now facing a lack of around 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to complete second doses of the citizens who have received the first dose.
India’s decision to suspend the export of the vaccine to tackle its own crisis amid a devastating second wave of infections led to the situation in Bangladesh.
The government is now trying to secure AstraZeneca shots from the US, Canada and other countries to meet the immediate needs.
It is also buying vaccines from other sources like Russia and China.
ABM Khurshid Alam, the DG of the Directorate General of Health Services, highlighted the challenges facing the country to store and transport the Pfizer vaccine, which has been proven to be around 95 per cent effective in late-stage clinical trials when Bangladesh applied for the Pfizer vaccine under COVAX in January 2021
The temperature required to store the vaccine is -70 degrees Celsius. In Bangladesh, only the Public Health Institute, IEDCR, and ICDDR,B have refrigerators with such low temperatures.
Considering the size of the vials for the 3mm vaccine containing 10 doses, Bangladesh will initially be able to store the shots and give them to people only in Dhaka, Alam said.
He also said that the government was trying to collect refrigerated trucks to transport the vaccines to other parts of the country.