Vaccine still a challenge for Bangladesh, many others: Dr Friedman

Vast majority of people have to wait a bit longer, he says

As the world awaits a Covid-19 vaccine, a US public health expert says the vast majority of people in Bangladesh and other parts of the world will have to wait a bit longer than expected due to limited global capacity of vaccine production.

"It's going to take time for the vaccine production to get a level where you can see a real impact," Country Director of Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr Michael Friedman told Dhaka Courier in an interview.

He said the vast majority of people have to wait a while - a long while, which he says, is a little bit unfortunate but that the reality of the world.

Dr Friedman, having a diverse 27 years of work experience in the US and the global stage, said vaccine is becoming very interesting globally, and three vaccines are showing very positive results.

"This is very exciting news for the world. Unfortunately, I still believe that it is going to take time to get enough vaccines in the first six months to really make a difference," he said.

Dr Friedman said this is true for many parts of the world, including Bangladesh, as it takes time to develop capacity.

The current world population is around 7.8 billion and over 15 billion does of vaccines are needed to address it globally.

The US expert said only 7 percent people of the world will be covered in the first six months considering the production capacity of three promising vaccines.

Dr Friedman said it is assumable that it would be difficult for Bangladesh to get more than one million of doses in first six months after any potential COVID-19 vaccine would be available globally.

"So, we’ve to be very realistic here that the vast majority of people may have to wait for a year. It could be more than a year," he said, adding that he sees a real challenge for Bangladesh.

Dr Friedman hinted that most of the vaccines will go to USA and European countries as there are issue of prepaid (to purchase vaccines) and they are investigating in the vaccine producing companies to get vaccines on priority basis.

He also said many countries will show their high infection rates of coronavirus as the reason. "So, in the first six months, it's not going to be easy for many countries to get enough vaccines."

The US expert said developing one’s own capacity and doing collaboration is the best way to get enough vaccines.

"I think Bangladesh is trying to do so but it’ll take time to develop such capacity. This is a very technical process having technical challenges," he said.

Dr Friedman also talked about priorities and who should get initial doses.

The expert said it is important to prepare the first round of vaccine-recipient list prioritizing who deserve the first access to the inoculate as Bangladesh never carried out any adult immunization programme despite its success in administering inoculates among children.

“Vaccination in children and adult is not the same,” Friedman said, adding the idea of vaccinating huge numbers of adults will be bit challenging.

He recommended that most high risk people- health workers, essential security forces, perhaps key decision makers in the government and the vulnerable groups should get vaccines on priority basis.

“We can help (Bangladesh) in different ways … if necessary we can help to figure out who need the first doses of vaccine,” Dr Friedman said.

The government has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to collect three crore shots of Covishield, the Indian version of Oxford-AtraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine.

Health Secretary Abdul Mannan hoped that Coronavirus vaccine will be available in Bangladesh by February 2021.

Bangladesh has highlighted the need for making the Covid-19 vaccines available, affordable and distributing those equitably to all countries that need those most.

A strong global commitment and collaboration to treat Covid-19 vaccine as a ‘global public good’ is absolutely essential, Bangladesh says.

The US expert also suggested that Bangladesh might also looking for potential Russian and Chinese vaccines to make its most vulnerable population, as much as possible, immune to COVID-19.

As countries plan to roll out vaccines in the coming weeks and months, WHO urged them to prioritize vaccinating those most in need, based on the Values Framework and Population Prioritization Roadmap issued by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization.

Unicef has begun laying the groundwork for the rapid, safe and efficient delivery of the eventual vaccine by purchasing and pre-positioning syringes and other necessary equipment.

As soon as Covid-19 vaccines successfully emerge from trials and are licensed and recommended for use, the world will need as many syringes as doses of vaccine.

To begin preparations, this year, Unicef will stockpile 520 million syringes in its warehouses, part of a larger plan of 1 billion syringes by 2021, to guarantee initial supply and help ensure that syringes arrive in countries before the Covid-19 vaccines.

During 2021, assuming there are enough doses of Covid-19 vaccines, Unicef anticipates delivering over 1 billion syringes to support Covid-19 vaccination efforts on top of the 620 million syringes that Unicef will purchase for other vaccination programmes against other diseases such as measles, typhoid and more.

“Vaccinating the world against Covid-19 will be one of the largest mass undertakings in human history, and we’ll need to move as quickly as the vaccines can be produced,” said Henrietta Fore, Unicef Executive Director.

“In order to move fast later, we must move fast now. By the end of the year, we’ll already have over half a billion syringes pre-positioned where they can be deployed quickly and cost effectively. That’s enough [syringes] to wrap around the world one and a half times.”

  • Dr Michael Friedman
  • UNICEF
  • Oxford vaccine
  • Vaccine
  • Covid-19

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