Bangladesh will receive a consignment of 106,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine under the global programme, COVAX.
The government said the consignment under the programme co-led by the World Health Organization and global vaccine alliance GAVI will arrive on Jun 2.
COVAX confirmed the development to Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Tuesday, said Maidul Islam, a spokesman for the ministry.
Bangladesh expects 68 million doses of COVID vaccines from the WHO-led facility to cover 20 per cent of the population with two doses per citizen, reports bdnews24.com.
In an interim distribution forecast published in February, the COVAX facility said Bangladesh will get nearly 12.8 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, in the first half of 2021.
Earlier, Bangladesh had also applied for the Pfizer vaccine from an initial volume of 1.2 doses under COVAX. But the country was not shortlisted by COVAX for the doses.
Based on the limited quantity of doses available, the list of participants for the Pfizer vaccine was pared down via a WHO-led review process.
The WHO considered complexities related to rolling-out a vaccine requiring ultra-cold chain while reviewing the applications.
Bangladesh is currently facing a lack of around 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to complete second doses of the citizens who have received the first dose.
India’s decision to suspend the export of the vaccine to tackle its own crisis amid a devastating second wave of infections led to the situation in Bangladesh.
The government is now trying to secure AstraZeneca shots from the US, Canada and other countries to meet the immediate needs.
It is also buying vaccines from other sources like Russia and China.
When Bangladesh applied for the Pfizer vaccine under COVAXin January, ABM Khurshid Alam, the DG of the Directorate General of Health Services, highlighted the challenges facing the country to store and transport the Pfizer vaccine, which has been proven to be around 95 per cent effective in late-stage clinical trials.
The temperature required to store the vaccine is -70 degrees Celsius. In Bangladesh, only the Public Health Institute, IEDCR, and icddr,b have the refrigerators with such low temperature.
Considering the size of the vials for 3mm vaccine containing 10 doses, Bangladesh will initially be able to store the shots and give them to people only in Dhaka, Alam said.
He also said that the government was trying to collect refrigerated trucks to transport the vaccines to others parts of the country.