Govt to buy 7 crore J&J vaccine shots
Bangladesh is going to purchase seven crore doses of the Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine using the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility.
The government has, in principle, decided to procure the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, called Janssen, which will be available from next June, said officials.
"A few days ago, Covax wrote to us asking whether we want Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine from June next year. We decided to procure the Johnson & Johsnon vaccine as it is single dose," Health Minister Zahid Maleque told The Daily Star yesterday.
He also said that the vaccine will be purchased using the Asian Development Bank (ADB) fund.
If 12 crore people are targeted for vaccination, the seven crore doses will cover around 60 percent of the total population.
The Covax facility is a global initiative coordinated by the World Health Organization, the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. The facility is working to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
The minister said they will reply to Covax, confirming the government's decision by today or tomorrow.
"We will not take Moderna vaccine due to cold chain difficulties," he added.
The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) issued an emergency use authorisation (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine in the country on June 15.
It is the first single-dose Covid-19 vaccine approved for emergency use in the country. Earlier, the DGDA approved five double-dose Covid-19 vaccines for emergency use in Bangladesh.
The Janssen vaccine has indicated active immunisation against Covid-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, in individuals aged 18 and above.
The World Health Organization, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the Food and Drug Administration of the United States of America and Health Canada have already approved this vaccine for emergency use.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is compatible with Bangladesh's standard storage and distribution channels, as it can be stored at temperatures between 2-8°C.
The advance purchase speaks volumes of Bangladesh's desperate effort to procure vaccines from every possible source to inoculate the country's 163 million people.
Bangladesh has so far inoculated less than three percent of its population. Its vaccination campaign, which started on February 7, stumbled due to a lack of supply from the Serum Institute of India and also from Covax.
Serum Institute failed to ship the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines that Bangladesh purchased after cases surged in India.
As per an agreement, Bangladesh was supposed to receive three crore shots of the vaccine in phases from January to June. Serum delivered the first 50 lakh doses in January, but shipped only 20 lakh shots the following month. No shipment has been received since then. Besides, the country also received 3.3 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses as a gift from India.
Bangladesh was supposed to receive a total of 68 million vaccine doses, which would cover around 20 percent of its population, from the Covax facility this year. But it has so far received 1.06 lakh doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which was expected to be 1.09 crore by May-June.
Bangladesh submitted an official Expression of Interest (EOI) to Gavi last July 7, to get the vaccines from the Covax. On September 18, Gavi announced that Bangladesh was eligible to get vaccines, after which the health directorate submitted the National Vaccine Deployment Plan to Gavi on December 7.
"We need a huge amount of vaccines to inoculate our population. So, we have to procure them from various sources. Covax's offer was good and that's why agreed to procure [Johnson & Johnson's vaccine]," Zahid Maleque said.
Bangladesh suspended administering the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on April 26 due to a depleting stock. The vaccine registration process was also halted on May 5.
However, the government resumed administering the first dose from Saturday on a limited scale with around 11 lakh doses of Sinopharm vaccines, which the government got as a gift from China.
Besides, it has also started administering the Pfizer vaccine in Dhaka city yesterday.
But the government is yet to secure a bulk-purchase of vaccines even though negotiations for China's Sinopharm and Russia's Sputnik V vaccines have been ongoing for quite some time.