We're Live Bangla Saturday, February 27, 2021

OXFORD-ASTRAZENECA VACCINE: SECOND LOT OF 20 LAKH DOSES ARRIVES

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Twenty lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India reached the country early today, which is less than half of the monthly supply installment as per a contract.

The government purchased three crore shots of the vaccine called Covishield from the company through its local agent Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

According to the tripartite deal, Bangladesh is supposed to get 50 lakh doses a month for six months.

The country received the first installment of 50 lakh doses on January 25.

Contacted, Beximco Managing Director Nazmul Hassan Papon said, "As per agreement, we were supposed to get 50 lakh doses of the vaccine a month. But we are now getting 20 lakh doses. We will let you know why we are getting less in a couple of days."

He, however, said they were also assessing how fast the vaccine stock in Bangladesh finishes.

Nazmul said a flight from Mumbai would carry the second consignment of the vaccine to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 11:00pm. The doses will then be transported to the Beximco warehouse in Tongi from where the shots would be dispatched to government-designated destinations.

The flight landed around 12:30am.

Prof ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said they are capable of storing 50 lakh doses a month.

"Maybe they [Serum Institute] have reduced the number of vaccine shots due to growing demands in other countries," he told The Daily Star.

Asked whether the reduction in the number was a violation of the agreement, Khurshid said, "No, it will not be a violation as long as they [Beximco] adjust the number during the six-month supply deadline."

Meanwhile, SII CEO Adar Poonawalla on Sunday urged countries to be patient about the supplies of the vaccine as the company has been directed to prioritise the "huge needs" of India.

"Dear countries and governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, @SerumInstIndia has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best," Poonawalla tweeted.

Bangladesh started the mass inoculation campaign on February 7 with 70 lakh Oxford vaccine shots in hand. Apart from the 50 lakh doses of purchased vaccine, the country received another 20 lakh doses of Covishield from the Indian government as a gift.

Initially, the government had planned to inoculate 60 lakh people in the first month. After two revisions, the government now plans to vaccinate 70 lakh people in the first month.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have registered on www.surokkha.gov.bd has reached 34.45 lakh as of yesterday.

Of them, around 23,08,157 lakh have been given the shots, including yesterday's 2,25,280.

Bangladesh is expected to receive 1.31 lakh doses of Pfizer vaccine under the COVAX arrangement by the end of this month, according to health officials.

The country is expected to get 6.8 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Covax, the global vaccine alliance.