TIB urges for transparency in vaccine collection, distribution

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

It has stressed on the need to follow relevant rules to avoid the recurrence of corruption in the health sector during emergency procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.

The number of effective Covid-19 vaccines is still very low and their production and supply are limited and as such a worldwide competition is being seen to get vaccines from the very beginning, said a TIB press release today.

“…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 it created some questions,” said TIB Executive Director Dr Iftekharuzzaman.

He said the manner in which the health ministry has tried to call the trade agreement as a G2G one in the face of uncertainty over getting vaccines is unwelcome.

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

It is also not clear whether there was any rationale or consideration or the process and policy followed while taking decisions 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 it was kept pending for a few months.

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

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

He said though the government has planned to provide free vaccination to 80 percent of the people depending on its availability, there is still concern about creating confusion 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 people by removing the confusion in order to make such a large immunisation programme a success.

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