Bangladesh is not considering a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine until the entire targeted population is brought under vaccination, said the Director General of Health Services authorities.
It is seven months since the Covid-19 vaccination started in the country and experts say many people who have been vaccinated earlier have already started to lose antibodies.
Several countries, including the United States and Singapore, have started providing booster doses to various groups, including health workers, elderly and comorbid patients, although there is no such directive by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
"The National Technical Advisory Committee or WHO has not yet given any advice or guidance on booster doses. We have not yet been able to vaccinate the targeted population. After vaccinating 80% of people, we will think about booster doses," DGHS Director General Professor ABM Khurshid Alam told The Business Standard.
Since countrywide vaccination started on 7 February, 21.5% of people have taken the first dose of the vaccine while 10.8% have received two doses so far.
About 50% of the population will be vaccinated by December. Besides, there is a possibility of vaccinating 70-80% of the people by April next year, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said at a function in Manikganj on Saturday.
Earlier on 26 September, the minister said vaccination activities are being carried out in the country as per WHO guidelines. They have not yet given any instructions on booster dose. The matter will be discussed when needed.
Meanwhile, various countries have started giving booster doses as some studies have shown that antibodies decrease within six to seven months of receiving the vaccine.
According to a study by the health-related journal Lancet, the efficacy of Pfizer in protecting people from Covid-19 infection drops significantly after 5-7 months. Protection from severe infection still holds strong at about 90% as seen with data collected from over 4.9 million individuals by Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
Healthcare workers and frontline Covid-19 workers, who have completed both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at least six months ago, will be offered booster mRNA vaccination shots from 9 October, the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) announced. In Singapore, 82.7% of people have received at least one shot and 80.8% received full doses.
German authorities have suggested extra vaccine doses for people older than 70, as well as care home workers. It also recommended mRNA booster shots for people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In Germany, 65.2% of people have received one dose and 68.4% have received two doses of the vaccine.
Israel and the United States have started giving booster doses to protect against Delta variants. In the USA, 65.7% of people received the first dose while 56.7% got two doses.
In Israel, 67% of people have received one dose and 65% of people have received two doses of the vaccine.
Dr Ashraful Hoque, an antibody researcher and an assistant professor at the Sheikh Hasina National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute, conducted a study on 500 people who received the Covishield vaccine from 1 February to 20 May.
He discovered that 100% of people who took both the shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine developed antibodies.
Dr Ashraful Hoque told TBS that young people were found to have antibodies at protective levels six months after receiving the Covishield vaccine, but those with comorbidity, especially chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease and other diseases, lost antibody levels significantly.
Therefore, depending on the availability of the vaccine, booster doses of the vaccine may be given to comorbid patients, he added.
Experts say those who were vaccinated in the country in February received the Covishield vaccine. Sinopharm and Pfizer vaccines are now available in the country. Mixed vaccination is required to provide a booster dose in Bangladesh. Moreover, authorisation is also needed for providing mixed doses, which Bangladesh does not have to date.
After a long hiatus, one million doses of the Covishield vaccine purchased from the Serum Institute arrived in the country on Saturday. These vaccines will be given under the ongoing vaccination, said ABM Khurshid Alam.
Rich countries with large supplies of vaccines should refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year and make the doses available for poorer countries, the head of the WHO said On 8 September, doubling down on an earlier appeal for a "moratorium" on boosters that have largely been ignored.