The government is considering banking on the existing cold chain for storing, transporting and distributing coronavirus vaccines while some experts say the main challenge will be to manage such a large volume with the existing capacity.
As vaccines, once procured, will need to be transported to remote parts of the country and administered rapidly at the right temperature, the experts stressed the need for developing a robust network for this.
“The main challenge will be to efficiently deliver the vaccines to the health centres across the country,” said Prof Ijaz Hossain, a teacher of chemical engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).
He said a massive cold chain is required to preserve vaccines scientifically and transport these to remote parts of the country efficiently.
A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply system to store, manage and transport life-saving vaccines. It consists of a series of links that are designed to keep vaccines within WHO-recommended temperature ranges, from the point of manufacture to the point of administration.
Bangladesh has the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) framework, capable of keeping life-saving drugs at temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.
The framework — supported by GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organisation (WHO) — has a capacity of storing, transporting and distributing around 1.5 crore doses at a time, according to government officials.
Since no vaccine candidate is approved by the WHO, its administrative protocol and logistics are still not known.
On November 5, the government signed a trilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Serum Institute of India and Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to get three crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Serum, keeping in mind the existing cold chain.
Beximco will collect and transport the Covishield vaccines to storage facilities under the health directorate’s EPI.
The Covishield, originally named as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 by the inventor organizations — Oxford University and AstraZeneca — is at the final stage trial in multiple countries. It could be ready as early as December, as reported in the Indian media.
The three crore doses will be delivered in phases with 50 lakh doses every month, according to the agreement.
Different vaccines require different temperatures and cold chain facilities and handling procedures. For example, Covishield doses must be stored at 2-8 degrees Celsius.
According to WHO, a vaccine against Covid-19 will be ready for registration by the end of this year or early next year at the earliest.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/siam.pukkato
News source: The Daily Star