DHAKA (THE DAILY STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - It has come out in a recent report by this newspaper that since early June, Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GK) has been urging the government to purchase 20 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for the coronavirus.
Gonoshasthaya Nagar Hospital was apparently asked to be the vaccine's sole distributor for Bangladesh. However, the organisation says that their repeated requests to the government to act quickly in this regard have been met with no response.
If this is the case, then one has to wonder where the government's priority lies-because it should be in the speedy acquisition of as many Covid-19 vaccine doses as possible.
Though it has been six months since the mass vaccination campaign began in Bangladesh, registration for the vaccine had to be paused for two months until July 8 due to a stall in the supply of vaccines.
For one, the supply from the Serum Institute of India had to be halted in mid-April to meet India's own demand during the worst phase of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
It was only on Wednesday (July 14) that Bangladesh reached the landmark of 10 million vaccine registrations, although less than 3 per cent of the total population have been fully vaccinated, according to reports by this newspaper.
Needless to say, more needs to be done in terms of raising awareness about the safety of Covid-19 vaccines and how necessary they are in order to get more people to register for them.
The registration process should also be made easier and should cater better to those who are not digitally literate or those who do not have National Identification Cards.
Although the foreign minister, foreign secretary, and director general of the DGHS had apparently expressed interest in the GK's initial proposal (presented during a meeting on June 6), the organisation's founder and trustee says that its three subsequent letters throughout June (one each to the foreign minister, the PM's office, and the PM's Principal Secretary) have so far been met with no response. When contacted by this daily, the DGHS's DG commented that he didn't "have any information in this regard."
Given the obvious uncertainty of vaccine supply for Bangladesh due to richer countries hoarding doses and demand increasing in other poorer countries as well, the government must explore every possible option of acquiring doses of vaccines in order to reach the goal of inoculating at least 70 per cent of the population.
Sputnik V happens to be one of the four vaccines currently authorised for emergency use in the country. This fact, added with our erratic supply of vaccine doses, should be enough for the government to respond quickly to GK's requests.
It is crucial for the government to diversify its vaccine sources and purchase/acquire as many doses as possible if we are to even begin reaching herd immunity for a population of over 160 million people.
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