The much-awaited deal signed between the Bangladesh government, China's Sinopharm and Bangladesh's Incepta Vaccines Ltd for bottling and labelling Chinese company's vaccines at the local pharmaceuticals' plant in Savar is a major development in the government's vaccine-procurement drive. Under the agreement, Incepta Pharmaceuticals will receive supply of ingredients from the Sinopharm in bulk for the bottling and labelling and packaging of the vaccine. In fact, Sinopharm has gone for such co-production of its vaccines with Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia. Under the agreement, Incepta will prepare 5.0 million doses of vaccine a month for delivery to the Bangladesh government. The advantage of the arrangement is three-fold. First, the government will have a sure source of supply from its own backyard, and because of this, there will be hardly any time-lag. Then, it is most likely to be cheaper compared to procurement from sources outside the country.
Presently, this will serve to build up a significant stock of vaccines for the population as early as possible. Reports have it that Incepta cannot go into bottling Sinovac vaccine before three months. Overall, the vaccines it will dispense at the rate of 5.0 million doses a month will fall short of the current requirement. So, Bangladesh will purchase 60 million vials of Sinovac from the collaborating Chinese company to speed up its inoculation programme. So far, Bangladesh has received 31 million doses of vaccine out of which about 20 million have already been administered. For a country of 166 million (approximately) people, the inoculation gap poses a great challenge.
The problem here is that only two or three pharmaceutical companies have facilities required for production of vaccines. In a critical time like this, it is desirable that the entire local capacity be used for manufacture of vaccines under such collaborative arrangement. Earlier, Bangladesh and Russia came close to an agreement on co-production of Sputnik-V in Bangladesh. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF, Russia's sovereign wealth fund) and India's Serum Institute, world's largest vaccine producer, have reached an agreement for production of this vaccine at the latter's facility from next month. Bangladesh should as well complete the process through early negotiations for production of Sputnik-V.
Indications for total elimination of the pathogen are hardly encouraging. Right now even herd immunity is not guaranteed even if 70 or 80 per cent of the total population are inoculated. The Delta variant can break the defence of antibody formed by inoculation. Moreover, experts in vaccine science are on record saying that antibody formed in human body declines within six months. So, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are contemplating administering a booster dose to their citizens. Again, mutations are changing the pathogen's character. Already variants like Lamda have evolved. Emergence of other pathogens is also likely. This means the local capacity for production of vaccines has to be enhanced greatly, preferably in the public sector. Finally, a word of caution: let the law-enforcement agencies be on guard to eliminate any possibility of manufacture of spurious vaccines. Even on Monday last, a haven of illicit look-alike drug production was busted and eight involved in the crime were arrested. So, beware of vaccine piracy!