The plan rests on the government’s efforts to secure the needed amount of vaccine doses as soon as possible
Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, the principal secretary to the prime minister, has said that that the government plans to start the mass Covid-19 vaccination program across Bangladesh from July if everything goes well.
Talking to reporters at a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in Dhaka on Thursday, he said that there was no possibility of a countrywide lockdown again for the time being.
“If they find it needed, the local administrations will impose lockdowns in their respective areas,” he said.
“And if everything goes well, we plan to start mass vaccination from July,” Kaikaus added, hinting that the plan will rest on the government’s efforts to secure the needed amount of vaccine doses as soon as possible.
The secretary’s remarks have come several days after the health minister and the health directorate chief said that the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign, which had stalled due to a suspension of supply back in April, will resume from next week.
Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday had said that the health authorities will resume the campaign from June 19 with the vaccine it has in stock right now since the Covid-19 situation was worsening again.
Until Wednesday, 10,081,082 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines were administered and only 118,918 doses were left in stock, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
It also said that nearly 4.26 million people have received both doses of the vaccine and over 1.55 million people have received only the first dose.
On Monday, DGHS chief Dr ABM Khurshid Alam had also said that they would resume administering the Pfizer and Sinopharm vaccine from next week.
People who have already registered for Covid-19 vaccines will receive the vaccines, and they will receive texts from the health authorities informing them when to get vaccinated, he said.
Asked whether the vaccine registration process would resume, Dr Alam said: “It will resume once we receive the next consignment of purchased vaccines.”
Scrambling for vaccines
Bangladesh started a pilot program at the end of January and the nationwide vaccination program on February 7 by administering Covishield, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
The country has so far received seven million Covishield doses from SII through its contract. Besides, India gave Bangladesh 3.3 million doses as a gift.
However, on April 25, the government suspended administering the first doses with Covishield, just a day after India said no more vaccine doses would be shipped to Bangladesh anytime soon as the Covid-19 situation worsened there.
As the SII has been unable to provide the number of doses they promised, many people around the country are waiting for their second jabs.
While the country reached out to several allies for vaccines, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) approved emergency use of US’s Pfizer-BioNtech, China’s Sinopharm, and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines.
The DGDA recently also cleared China’s Sinovac and the US’s Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
So far, China has sent 1.1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Bangladesh as a gift. The health authorities are administering them to medical students and professionals.
On May 31, the country also received 100,620 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine under the Covax facility run by the World Health Organization and Gavi, the vaccine alliance.
To tackle the vaccine shortage, Bangladesh had sought two million doses of Covishield from the US, once the latter announced on April 26 that it would share the vaccine with the world.
Last Friday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh would receive over a million Covishield doses from Covax soon.