The decision on running a trial of a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine in the country may come next week, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said yesterday.
He said he would sit with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina next week to make a decision in this regard, a Cabinet Division official told The Daily Star, quoting the minister as saying.
The health minister was talking to Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal during an informal discussion after a meeting of the cabinet purchase committee.
Zahid said the discussion would be on the contract with the Chinese company Sinovac, pricing, advance payment and some other issues regarding the vaccine trial.
The finance minister told the health minister, "You decide what you would do and send a proposal to us. We will release funds."
On July 18, Bangladesh Medical Research Council permitted the icddr,b to conduct the vaccine trial on 4,200 healthcare workers in seven hospitals.
But the trial became uncertain after the health minister and the health service division secretary last month said it would take time for the government to make a decision on the trial.
Speaking to journalists during a briefing after yesterday's cabinet purchase committee meeting, the finance minister said, "Let the meeting be held… It is not possible for me to say anything final right now.
"I have told the health minister that getting the vaccine [soon] would be tough if [we] depend on a single source. I have already noticed that many countries have signed contracts with some others who will produce vaccines; they have also made advance payments. I told the health minister that we should go for such an arrangement," Kamal said.
Talking about a Russian vaccine, the finance minister said, "We have to contact their sources too. We have to contact all sources whoever will produce vaccines."
The minister said there is an allocation in the national budget to buy Covid-19 vaccines.
On Monday, Health Service Division Secretary Abdul Mannan also told this newspaper that the decision on the phase-III trial of the Chinese vaccine would be made next week.
During yesterday's discussion between the two ministers, the health minister also mentioned that the World Health Organization may supply 20 percent of the vaccine demand by March 2021.
The Bangladesh government, however, is trying to get the vaccine earlier from any probable source, the health minister added.
42 MORE DIE
Meanwhile, 42 more people died of Covid-19 and 2,995 tested positive for the virus in 24 hours till 8:30am yesterday, according to a press release of the health directorate.
The Directorate General of Health Services sent the release to the media around 3:30pm instead of disclosing the information through a regular online bulletin.
On Tuesday, DGHS Additional Director General Prof Nasima Sultana said they would not hold the online bulletin until further notice.
According to the press release, a total of 14,751 samples were tested in labs across the country during the 24-hour period. Of them, 20.3 percent tested positive.
As many as 1,117 Covid-19 patients recovered during the same period.
So far, 153,089 novel coronavirus patients out of 266,498 confirmed cases have recovered. The recovery rate is 57.44 percent.
On March 8, the authorities reported the first three Covid-19 cases in the country. The first death from the virus was recorded on March 18.
With the latest deaths, the death toll from the virus rose to 3,513 -- around 1.32 percent of all confirmed cases.
Meanwhile, Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader yesterday requested the health ministry to hold its regular online briefing on Covid-19 at least twice a week.
Quader, also the minister for road transport and bridges, made the call during a virtual views exchange meeting with the officers of the BRTA and BRTC. The minister joined the meeting from his residence in the capital.
"I draw the attention of the health ministry to telecast the bulletin at least twice a week," he said.
He expressed fear that there would be rumours and people would show indifference to fighting Covid-19 if the virtual bulletin did not continue.