Though many countries are making frantic efforts to have potential corona vaccines of the leading candidates that are now at the final stage, health experts think Bangladesh looks slow in its move to have an effective one in time.
Even if an effective vaccine is authenticated early next year, they said there are doubts whether Bangladesh will be able to get it at the early stage as the country is apparently depending on the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi) to procure it.
The experts said the country needs a well-planned roadmap alongside keeping in touch with all the potential countries and originations that are conducting the phase-III trial of vaccine development to get permission to manufacture one in the country once gets approval by the World Health Organization (WHO).
They also think Bangladesh can take part in the final phase of trials of China, India and other countries as an option for negotiation to get that at the initial stage at low prices.
Meanwhile, the government on Thursday allowed the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) to run phase-III trial of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine in Bangladesh.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, “If Bangladesh participates in this trial, it’ll get one lakh free doses of the vaccine.”
The minister earlier said all government agencies working to tackle coronavirus in Bangladesh are working to bring Covid-19 vaccine to the country.
“The work on the vaccine is at an advance level. Countries like the UK, China, Russia, the USA, India and others are at the final stage of vaccine development. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will take the right decision at the right time after scrutinising the qualities of the vaccines,” he said.
Over 200 companies and research institutes around the world have been working on developing the coronavirus vaccine.
Of them, Sputnik developed by Moscow's Gamaleya Institute has already been approved by Russian authorities while Oxford University and AstraZeneca of the United Kingdom, Sinovac in China, Moderna in the United States and some other institutes are conducting clinical trials of their potential vaccines on human bodies.
The WHO believes that one or two effective vaccines may be available by the end of this year.
Contacted, Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, said they suggested the government to take necessary steps, including ramping up diplomatic efforts and keeping in touch with leading candidates, to get the vaccine in the early stage.
“The government is saying they’re working on it, but no such effort is visible. I think we’re falling behind in the race of getting a vaccine,” he said.
Prof Nazrul Islam said the government should intensify its diplomatic efforts to collect the vaccine directly from any producer or get permission to produce it in the country. “If we can convince any country or organisation to produce their vaccine in the manufacturing plants in Bangladesh, it’ll help us ensure enough doses of vaccine for our people at low prices.”
Besides, he said, Bangladesh should be part of the clinical trial of various vaccines, including that of China and India.
Noted medicine specialist and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's personal physician Dr ABM Abdullah said it seems the authorities concerned are not serious about getting an effective vaccine to get rid of the virus.
Dr Abdullah, however, said the government should remain alert so that it does not waste money and energy for an ineffective and unpromising vaccine.
Besides, he said, the government should now take some preparations for the preservation, manufacturing, and distribution of the vaccine if it’s found early next year. “We should have preparations how we’ll preserve or manufacture the vaccine, and work out a plan about who will get the first priority to get it.”
Prof Muzaherul Huq, a former adviser to WHO South-East Asia region, said in any vaccine race there are three stages--research, trial or participation and production--and Bangladesh is lagging behind in all these aspects.
“First of all, Bangladesh has no research on coronavirus. The country lacks necessary technology, modern laboratories and human resources to invent a vaccine,” he said.
Secondly, Huq said, Bangladesh have not yet participated in any vaccine trial or made any deal with any country to get the vaccine at the early stage.
Mentioning that there are five ways to develop a vaccine, he said Chania, India, the UK, the USA and Russia are following separate methods for their vaccines. “We should keep in touch with all of them, but still we’ve no visible such efforts.”
Thirdly, he said, Bangladesh looks depending only on Gavi or international bodies for the vaccine. “But it won’t be so easy to have necessary vaccine doses for the country’s such a huge population through Gavi or other donors. If two doses of vaccine are needed for each person, we’ll need at least 24 crore doses, which is not possible for Gavi to provide.”
He said Bangladesh has the capacity to manufacture or produce the vaccine with the permission of the company that will invent the vaccine. “We need to make agreements with the potential companies and countries to get permissions for the vaccine production.”
He said Indonesia is one of the largest vaccine-manufacturing countries in the world. “Indonesia participated in the trial of Chines vaccine and signed deals with many other countries to get permission for producing their vaccines. We can follow Indonesia. We should at least contact all the vaccine potential countries and show interest in obtaining it after authentication. If we can do it, we’ll get priority in getting the vaccine.”