A consignment of 25 lakh doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will arrive in the country on Monday (27 September) through Covax, a platform to ensure coronavirus vaccination in all countries on a fair basis.
A National Air cargo flight from Florida carrying the doses will land at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka at 10.15pm, said a Health Ministry press release.
US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller and DGHS Director General Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam will be present at the airport to receive the vaccines among other senior officials of the health sector.
Earlier on 23 August, Health Minister Zahid Maleque confirmed at an informal media briefing that another 60 lakh doses of Pfizer vaccine would be arriving from the United States in September. As part of those 60 lakh vaccines, the country received over 1 lakh Pfizer vaccines on 31 May and a little over 10 lakh on 1 September.
With the 1,00,620 and 10,03,860 Pfizer vaccine doses that came in the first and second phases respectively, the country has by far received over 36 lakh doses of the vaccine.
On 27 May, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) approved the Pfizer mRNA Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Bangladesh, removing all legal barriers to the import and use of this vaccine.
Pfizer has been approved as the fourth vaccine to be used in the country, besides the Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield, Russia's Sputnik-V, and China's Sinopharm vaccines.
According to the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA), Pfizer's is a two-dose vaccine, the second dose of which will be given three weeks after the first dose.
The Pfizer vaccine was earlier required to be stored at minus 90 to minus 60 degrees Celsius. So, the cold chain maintenance of the Pfizer vaccine was a concern for Bangladesh.
The US Food and Drug Administration on 26 May authorised storage of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at standard refrigerator temperatures for up to one month, in an effort to make the vaccine more widely available, reports Reuters.
Unopened, thawed vials of the vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for up to a month, up from a previous maximum limit of five days.
Bangladesh has received 4.93 crores of vaccine through purchase and gifts so far. Of those, 3.67 crores were given to people as first and second jabs. The government currently has 1.25 crore doses, and 10 lakh of them are from Pfizer.
The country is set to receive another 50 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccines and is planning to inoculate school-going children from age 12 to 17 years.
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said Bangladesh will receive 24 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines by March-April of next year. "Out of these 24 crore doses, some will be purchased, and some will be received under the Covax facility," he added.
"The government has taken up a plan to inoculate around two crore people every month against the Covid-19," said Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director-General Dr ABM Khurshid Alam.
He said that the DGHS is making a serious effort to boost vaccinations at the grassroots level to achieve its inoculation target.
"We will provide Covid-19 jabs at the union level two days a week alongside the regular vaccination campaign," he added.
He also mentioned that the DGHS is prioritising older citizens for Covid-19 inoculation because they have a comparatively higher death toll.
"We are also working on bringing the children under vaccination in the shortest possible time," Dr Alam said.
Covid situation in Bangladesh
The number of daily cases dropped below 1,000 for the first time in more than four months on Saturday (25 September) as the health officials reported 818 new infections. Meanwhile, 25 more people died of the virus during the same period.
The latest figures took the country's death toll to 27,393 and the case tally to 15,50,371, according to the DGHS.