Ministry seeks govt nod for COVID-19 vaccine single sourcing

3cr doses for free among frontline fighters, elderly in Bangladesh: cabinet secy   

Mustafizur Rahman | Published: 00:01, Dec 01,2020 | Updated: 00:08, Dec 01,2020


The government is set to procure three crore doses of the Oxford-developed COVID-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India through its local vendor Beximco Pharmaceuticals to be distributed among the frontline fighters, elderly people and children for free.

The health ministry on Monday apprised the weekly cabinet meeting of the latest status of vaccine procurement from the ‘single source’ without any tender and measures taken to tackle the second wave of coronavirus infections in the winter.

Three crore doses of vaccines being procured by the government under a tripartite agreement would be distributed free of costs on a priority basis among the frontline fighters, including health service providers, officials, police and others exposed to the coronavirus infections and elderly people and children in keeping with the World Health Organisation protocol, cabinet secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam told a press briefing at the secretariat after the meeting.

The government has already agreed to procure each dose of the vaccine at $4 from the Indian manufacturer while the local vendor Beximco Pharma would charge additional $1 for its transportation.

AstraZeneca, which has obtained the licence of the Oxford vaccine, on November 24 announced the rate for the vaccine, fixing $3 as the ceiling price for each dose.

Asked about the purchase of Oxford vaccine from the Indian private manufacturer at a higher price, the cabinet secretary said that the price of each dose would be fixed in the final agreement.

The meeting was informed that the health ministry had sent a proposal seeking approval of the cabinet committee on economic affairs for the COVID-19 vaccine purchase from the Indian manufacturer.

‘The health ministry proposal for the purchase of three core doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the single source would be placed in the economic affairs meeting scheduled for Wednesday,’ the cabinet secretary said.

He said that the finance ministry had already disbursed a fund of Tk 735.77 crore for the vaccine procurement.    

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the weekly cabinet meeting virtually from her residence Ganabhaban and members of her cabinet and officials concerned joined it from the secretariat.

According to the tripartite contract signed by the health ministry on November 5 with Serum and Beximco for buying the quantity, the government will pay $5 for each of the doses to  Serum Institute, including $4 as price and $1 for carrying it while maintaining the required temperature.

Serum Institute will pay its local agent Beximco Pharma  for carrying the vaccines from the former’s warehouse to the Bangladesh government’s warehouse as per the deal.

The government is therefore set to pay about $30 million, or Tk 260 crore, more than the price set by AstraZeneca to buy three crore doses of the Oxford COVID-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India. 

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with a 70 per efficacy, is in further trials and is expected to be available in Bangladesh in January, health ministry officials said.

Each person would need two doses of the vaccine.

Beximco Pharma chief operating officer Rabbur Reza, who signed the agreement on behalf of his company, told New Age on November 5 that it took a separate government permission to import 10 lakh doses of the vaccine from Serum and would sell each dose at $8 in the local market.

Health secretary Md Abdul Mannan, however, claimed that the contract was signed maintaining transparency and preserving the national interest. ‘The contract has a provision for reviewing the price,’ Mannan said on Sunday.

About the measures for containing the second wave of infections, Anwarul said that the agencies concerned were asked to fine maximum for ignoring the government order for mandatory use of masks. ‘We would observe the situation for another week and go for stricter measures to ensure that all wears masks in public places,’ he added.

The cabinet secretary said they would consider the provision of jail if people continue to ignore the order for wearing masks in offices and other public places as the number of coronavirus cases was rising on the advent of winter.

Monday’s cabinet meeting approved the ‘National Emergency Service Policy 999’ placed by the public security division of the home ministry to extend services to the people in trouble instantly, Anwarul said.

A separate unit of the police under an official holding the rank of deputy inspector general would be established to ensure smooth emergency services already in place. Giving false information to 999 would be a punishable offence, the cabinet secretary said.

He said that the cabinet meeting was also apprised of the Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100 adopted in 2018 for the country’s long-term development programmes.

The prime minister asked the agencies concerned for immediate measures to stop indiscriminate extraction of sand from rivers to check erosions across the country, said the cabinet secretary.  

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