The government is likely to start piloting the Covid-19 vaccination from next week with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines obtained from the Indian government, doses of which are expected to arrive in Dhaka tomorrow.
The launch date of piloting the vaccination will be finalised upon the prime minister's consent, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told The Daily Star yesterday, adding that the PM will inaugurate the piloting through a virtual conference.
"The prime minister will inaugurate the piloting. She is likely to be virtually connected with the event in Kurmitola General Hospital (KGH)," said the health minister.
Twenty lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, a token gift of friendship from the Indian government, are scheduled to reach the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport tomorrow.
The piloting will take place in KGH and some other hospitals where around 500 people are likely to participate voluntarily, said the minister.
He said the vaccine recipient would be under observation for seven days before the mass inoculation campaign.
"We will start the mass vaccination campaign once the purchased vaccines arrived. If it does not arrive on time, we will start mass inoculation with the [20 lakh] token vaccines," the minister added.
The decision was taken at a virtual meeting held at the Prime Minister's Office with the principal secretary of the PMO in chair.
Bangladesh purchased three crore doses of the Oxford vaccine, called Covishied, from the Serum Institute of India. The fist consignment of 50 lakh Covishield doses is expected to arrive on January 25.
Volunteers from various professions including a doctor, a nurse, a technologist, a health assistant, an elderly person, a police official, a BGB personnel, a defence official, a journalist and some others may take part in the trial process at the Kurmitola General Hospital, the minister said.
A top official of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), involved with the vaccination process, said a special flight will carry the vaccine doses gifted by the Indian government.
The vaccines will be kept in the cold storage facilities of the Central Medicine Store Depot, Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) and the Tejgaon Health Complex in Dhaka, Prof ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of DGHS, told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the health minister said two lakh people will be vaccinated in the country every day once the government gets the 50 lakh vaccine doses from SII.
The minister also said there was no plan to start vaccination with any important person of the country.
"The people of the country are the VVIPs to us. Those who are in need of it first, will be given [the vaccine] first," said the health minister while responding to a query on whether Bangladesh would follow the example of starting the vaccination process with VIPs, like many other countries.