Bangladesh will get vaccine first when India begins delivery: Salman Rahman

Bangladesh will get the coronavirus vaccine to be manufactured by the Serum Institute of India on a priority basis, Salman F Rahman has said.

The prime minister’s adviser for private industry and investment spoke about different sides of a deal between Serum and Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals on the supply of the vaccine at an event at Dhaka Reporters Unity on Monday.

Beximco signed the deal to get 30 million doses of the vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and British firm AstraZeneca on Nov 5.

AstraZeneca on Monday said early data showed its COVID-19 vaccine was up to 90 percent effective as it became the third drugmaker to announce promising results.

Citing the deal, Salman, vice-chairman of Beximco Group, said Bangladesh will get 5 million doses of the vaccine per month and the delivery will start the day Serum begins marketing the shots internationally.

Bangladesh will also get the vaccine at the cheapest rate in the world - $5 per dose, according to Salman.

He said Serum will charge the Indian government and Bangladesh the same rate for the vaccine.

He noted that US firms Moderna and Pfizer will sell their coronavirus shots at around $40 per dose while another vaccine candidate marketed in China recently is priced $60 per shot.

Beximco will supply the doses to the government of Bangladesh as the exclusive distributor in the country.

“We hope we will get good news about the Oxford vaccine by December. And the vaccine will be available in Bangladesh after that,” the Beximco boss said.

Reuters said in a report that in poor countries, where the logistics of distributing rival vaccines posed a bigger challenge, the effect of a cheaper and easier alternative could be even more pronounced.

“The big advantage of having the vaccine is that it can be stored, transported and handled at 2-8 degrees Celsius, and we have that storage facility," Health Minister Zahid Maleque said on the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the report.

The discussion where Salman spoke was organised by the DRU on investment in the private sector amid the coronavirus crisis.  

Salman said the World Bank’s ease of doing business rankings have been postponed this year due to the pandemic crisis.

The government is working to bring Bangladesh among the first 100 countries on the index as targeted by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina when the rankings are published again in 2022, said Salman.

The relevant field-level government offices need to change their mindset and the private industries need to improve skills to achieve the target, he added.