BANGLADESH GOVT MULLS SPENDING TK8,000CR TO BUY VACCINE
The government is planning to use Tk8,000 crore of Tk10,000 crore allocated in the current fiscal budget for tackling the Covid-19 pandemic to purchase vaccines.
This comes in the face of the possibility that there could be a delay in getting vaccines from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (Gavi), say officials at the finance ministry.
The matter was discussed at a recent meeting attended by officials of the health ministry, the finance ministry, and the foreign ministry at the Prime Minister's Office.
A senior official at the Finance Division told The Business Standard on Tuesday that no separate amount was earmarked in the budget for purchasing vaccines.
He also said no money had yet been spent from the Tk10,000 crore allocation.
There has been a primary discussion on using Tk8,000 crore from the allocation so that Bangladesh does not lag behind others in the race to purchase vaccines, said the official.
"But no final decision has been made yet. The prime minister will take the final decision," he added.
The government wants to buy vaccines at the early stage of production by contacting different countries via the foreign ministry.
The government thinks the price of each dose of vaccine that various countries are planning to buy from different companies, such as Moderna, Sinovac and Pfizer, and the University of Oxford, will be Tk3,390 ($40).
Based on that price, 2.35 crore doses of vaccine could be purchased with Tk8,000 crore.
Initially, the Gavi will purchase 200 crore doses of the finally-approved vaccine and will give it to 20-23 percent of people in less developed countries.
Of those, the Bangladesh government is hopeful about getting vaccines for four crore people free of cost.
Apart from the Tk10,000 crore allocation in the budget, a decision was made to allocate Tk765 crore to purchase vaccines under two projects run with loan assistance from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Officials say 22.5 lakh doses of vaccine could be purchased with that money.
Ten lakh Covid-19 frontline workers, including doctors, nurses, and health workers, will be given the vaccine initially.
Next, elderly people will get it. After that, it could be given to people in general.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said on Monday the government was maintaining contact with Moderna, Sinovac, Pfizer, the University of Oxford, and Russia's Sputnik 5 to buy vaccines.
"We will go for the one that will be easy to buy at an affordable price, and will be available early," he said.
The minister said the prime minister was being constantly updated on the subject of vaccine.
"We will sign the agreement or make the advance payment once she makes a decision," said Zahid.
The finance minister recently suggested that the health minister should not depend on a single country or company to buy vaccines.
He told a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase that there would be no shortage of money to buy vaccines.
"We have separate allocations in the budget for this," he added.