Bangla Monday, September 21, 2020

PM TO DECIDE ON BANGLADESH’S VACCINE APPROACH NEXT WEEK

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Researchers and clinicians in the field of vaccines are advising not to rush into releasing a vaccine without proper safety analyses. Photo: Reuters

The Ministry of Health will meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Covid-19 vaccine purchases next week; at a time when other countries are racing to obtain the shots as soon as they become available.

"The meeting's participants will also decide whether China will be approved to conduct vaccine trials in Bangladesh," Health Minister Zahid Maleque also told the Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase Wednesday. 

If the meeting's participants give Chinese trials the go-ahead, then Bangladesh will discuss the size of the trial population, other conditions and how much China will pay Bangladesh for the trial, said the minister.    

The minister said many countries are signing agreements with Oxford University and paying in advance so that they can get the shots if the Oxford vaccine succeeds. Biotechnology companies who are conducting research on the Covid-19 vaccine are also striking deals with countries and taking advances.          

"The companies will provide vaccines first to the countries who sign deals in advance. We are also continuing negotiations with them. The meeting with the prime minister will make decisions on advance payment," said Zahid Maleque.       

The health minister said the World Health Organization (WHO) is also continuing discussions with biotech companies so that three percent of people worldwide, who are more susceptible to the virus, can be provided with the vaccine. The organisation aims at raising the number of vaccine recipients to 20 percent globally by March 20.   

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal, who presided over the meeting, told the press that he told the health minister not to bank on any single source for the vaccine supply.

Mustafa Kamal said, "An Indian company has signed a deal for the Oxford vaccine. If we cannot reach Oxford directly, we can go for a contract at least with the Indian company."       

We must try to get it as Russia has already approved its vaccine. I promised the health minister about the financing on demand, he added.

Agriculture Minister Dr Abdur Razzak at the meeting wondered why the WHO gives frustrating news time and again.

He proposed fining people who are not wearing a face mask Tk100-200. The minister also recommended providing the people with subsidised face masks if required.

Razzak suggested the health minister bring up the fining issue to be executed by police at the meeting with the premier.

In response, Zahid Maleque said mobile courts are already fining people who do not wear masks. He said that he did not know whether police can fine people who are not wearing masks.