Bangladesh to begin COVID-19 vaccinations next month

DHAKA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Bangladesh will begin inoculating people against COVID-19 in the first week of February as it hopes to get the vaccine by end of this month, a senior health ministry official said on Monday.

The South Asian country of more than 160 million in November signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to buy 30 million doses of the vaccine developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca.

The vaccine will arrive in the country by Jan. 25, Abul Bashar Mohammed Khurshid Alam, head of the Directorate General of Health Services, told a news conference.

“The vaccine will be first applied on the health workers and it will be monitored for the next seven days. After that, we’ll begin the vaccination across the country in the first week of February,” he said.

Frontline workers like health service providers and police will be given priority, health ministry officials said.

Bangladesh, with patchy healthcare facilities, has 523,302 confirmed cases, including 7,803 deaths.

In the global race to develop vaccines against COVID-19, AstraZeneca’s candidate is viewed as offering one of the best hopes for many developing countries because of its cheaper price and ability to be transported at normal fridge temperatures.

The Serum Institute, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce more than a billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for global supply.

Bangladesh will also get 68 million doses of vaccine from the GAVI vaccine alliance, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan said last month, referring to the global health partnership set up in 2000 to increase access to immunisation in poor countries. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)