Bangladesh is likely to allow the phase three trial of a coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac.
Bangladesh Medical Research Council approved the vaccine in the middle of July more than a month after the icddr,b, local partner of Sinovac, submitted an application to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) for a clinical trial of the vaccine.
"We will study the application for the trial of the Sinovac's vaccine and will let the icddr,b know the decision at the appropriate time," Health Secretary Abdul Mannan told journalists after a meeting with icddr,b scientists at the ministry yesterday.
The vaccine had its phase one and two clinical trials done in China "without showing any side effects," he said, adding that the Chinese company wanted to conduct a trial in Bangladesh as coronavirus infection has decreased in China.
"There are still many coronavirus patients in Bangladesh. The Chinese company needs 4,200 people for the trial," Mannan said.
An official present in the meeting told this correspondent that the health ministry officials were convinced after a detailed discussion with the icddr,b scientists about the vaccine trial.
He said there was a misconception that people are used as guinea pigs for drug trials -- which is not true.
Now there are globally-recognised rules and regulations for clinical trials and those would be rigorously maintained in Bangladesh, he said.
Scientists say if the vaccine goes through successful trial in Bangladesh, the country's pharmaceutical companies would be able to go for its production.
In that case, the people will get the vaccine quickly and at an affordable price and the country's capacity for vaccine research will be developed, scientists also said.
Earlier in mid-July, Mannan said the decision of vaccine trial was a matter of the two governments.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque on July 22 said the government would decide on the trial upon consultation with the National Technical Advisory Committee for tackling Covid-19.
Mannan yesterday said it would take at least six months to conduct the phase three trial in Bangladesh.
"Therefore, we will not only depend on the Chinese company vaccine. We will also try to get supplies of vaccines from the US, the UK and the European Union countries if they find effective vaccines earlier," he said.
Globally, about 150 research firms are conducting trials of the Covid-19 vaccines. Oxford University in the UK, Moderna in the US and two Chinese companies are at an advanced stage of their trial.
Developed countries are already signing deals with vaccine producers for getting vaccines at the earliest. Vaccine alliance GAVI is also working to ensure that the least developed countries get vaccine supplies free of cost. Bangladeshwill also get free vaccines.
"Therefore, Bangladesh government must make the best efforts to establish effective contacts with GAVI and other actors concerned," said a medical scientist who worked with the World Health Organization.
At the same time, Bangladesh should also invite vaccine companies for trial in Bangladesh as it would help the country develop the capacity in medical research, he said.