The decision that the core committee of the government on Covid-19 vaccine has shortlisted three vaccines out of five suggested from the Drug Administration comes as an encouraging piece of news in these hard times when many people fear that they may not get the awaited second dose, let alone the first one. According to the news item carried by all the major dailies including The Financial Express on Saturday, the selected three vaccines were Sputnik-V, Moderna mRNA-1273 and Sinopharm. The basis of the fear that the health administration was running short of required quantity of vaccines stems from the news carried by the mainstream media that the existing stock would run out within May 15 next at the present rate of application. With the decision that alternate sources would be secured now comes as a great relief to all the people waiting eagerly for a dose. Besides, experts have welcomed the decision to diversify, because the vaccine, from whatever source it is bought in, is only in the first year of its application, even though a lot of efforts, research and diligence have been put together to bring it to its present stage.
Bangladesh's primary choice had been the Oxford-AstraZeneca, produced by the Serum Institute of India. So far 10.3 million doses have come from India, a part of it as gift from the government of that country. The people of the country would never forget the great good that has been done by its timely arrival. India is now itself in a huge crisis with the pandemic breaking records on all counts every day. Bangladesh has also been breaking records in matters of death and cases of infection over the past two weeks; however, it does not match India's 1.3 billion-plus population and the extent of problems there. Recently arrived reports tell of diversifying sources in that country also, against the backdrop of shortage of vitally needed oxygen and vaccines there. It is therefore urgent for Bangladesh to not only look for the Serum Institute at this critical time, but also leave no stone unturned to get hold of easily available doses from other sources. The news that the health ministry has an agreement almost ready for import or local production of the Sputnik-V vaccine is heartening. It is likely that the other two will also be in the pipeline soon, although reports indicate that experts want at least two vaccines to be readied for immediate import, or local production, with the country having the capability for the latter. The foreign minister's assertion that a virtual meeting is going to be held with the Chinese and several other South Asian countries soon on the proposed vaccine store is likely to open the path to a reassuring future, because as medical experts think, the virus is not going to go away in a few months or years.
The government deserves recognition for the first steps it took to combat the virus with timely import and for making it available to the people at no cost. Maybe its dependence on only one supplier would come for scrutiny now that the first source appears to have dried out. Now the health administrators must move fast in line with its latest decisions. The Chinese proposal of a South Asian vaccine warehouse is to be examined fully and taken advantage of, since fears of continuance of the malaise is real. The past 14 months have been a period of great struggle for this country, as elsewhere, through closures and lockdowns, through decimation of livelihoods and businesses and months lost to students whose bright future now appears murky. This is the time to act fast and energetically, take every good idea into stride, and seize the hour.