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TIB seeks transparency in vaccine collection, distribution

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has urged the government to ensure maximum transparency in the procurement, collection and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

The TIB stressed the need for following the relevant rules to avoid the recurrence of corruption in the health sector in the name of emergency procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

Still, the number of effective Covid-19 vaccines is very low and their production and supply are limited. So, a worldwide competition is noticed to get vaccines from the very beginning, said a TIB press release on Tuesday.

“…though the government’s initiative to promptly collect Oxford-AstraZeneca shots from Serum Institute of India is commendable, the commercial agreement in this regard and the possibility of timely collection from this source could not avoid controversy rather created some questions,” said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.

He said the way in which the Health Ministry has tried to call the trade agreement as G2G one in the face of uncertainty over getting vaccines is unwelcome.

On the other hand, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said, there are questions over how the existing laws of the Drug Administration was followed during the quick approval process of Covidshield vaccine and on the basis of which file this decision was made.

Similarly, it is not clear whether there were rationales and considerations or what the process and policy were followed while taking the decision by the government to pay the cost and commission money to Beximco for directly purchasing the vaccine. “It’s contrary to the transparency of government procurement at any level,” he said.

Noting that the Health Ministry has suffered from an indecision from the beginning over the collection of Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said though the decision was made for the trial of China’s Sinovac inoculation, it was finally cancelled after keeping it pending for a few months.

Amid the controversy over the uncertainty of getting the vaccine, the vaccine trial of local firm ‘Globe Biotech’ got necessary approval. At the same time, Bangladesh has decided to collect the Covid-19 shots developed by Pfizer-BioNtech through COVAX despite there are complexities over the preservation of these vaccines in Bangladesh, he said.

Now the big question is that the decision of collecting Pfizer vaccines would be effective when Bangladesh needs to have special freezing system for preservation of these Covid-19 doses in its 56 districts, out of 64, and it needs to have special syringes to inject these vaccines, according the government’s assessment, said the TIB Executive Director.

He said though the government has planned to provide free vaccination to 80 percent of people depending on its availability, there is a concern of creating confusion again in the vaccination process.

People have no clear idea how the priority recipients of the vaccines will be set, Dr Iftekharuzzaman said putting emphasis on ensuring transparency and creating trust among the common people by removing the confusion in order to make such a large immunization programme a success.

Source: United News of Bangladesh