After months-long stalemate, the government has finally given nod to the icddr,b to run phase-III trial of the Chinese vaccine for Covid-19.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque announced this yesterday while talking to journalists at the secretariat.
Earlier, the minister held a meeting with the icddr,b officials. Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming also joined the meeting.
The government has conducted various analyses on the efficacy of the vaccine before permitting Chinese company Sinovac to run the trial, the minister said.
He also said the government would be cordial in allowing trial-run of vaccines developed by other countries, including India.
On July 18, Bangladesh Medical Research Council permitted the icddr,b, to run the trial of the Chinese vaccine in seven hospitals.
But the trial became uncertain after the health minister and the secretary said the government would take time to decide on the trial.
International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b) has congratulated the government for its decision.
“We appreciate the Government of Bangladesh for taking time to evaluate our application for the phase III trial of the Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine critically and give approval for the trial.
“We share a common goal with the government to bring the safest and most effective Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh at the earliest possible time so that the country may return to normalcy at the soonest,” said a press release from the icddr,b yesterday.
The icddr,b and Chinese company Sinovac Research and Development Limited will jointly conduct the trial in Bangladesh for the next 18 months.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control, the general stages of a vaccine’s development cycle are: exploratory stage, pre-clinical stage, clinical development, regulatory review and approval, manufacturing and quality control,
Phase-III clinical trial means the vaccine is at its final stage of major trials when the vaccine would be given to thousands of people to test its efficacy and safety.
Many countries are volunteering to be part of the phase-III trial of various vaccines.
The hospitals where the trial will be conducted are: Mugda General Hospital, two units (unit 1 and 2) of Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Kurmitola General Hospital, Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College Hospital, Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital and Mohanagar General Hospital.
“The vaccine will be administered to the healthcare staffers who are not infected with Covid-19 as they are exposed to the disease. It will be examined whether and how much antibodies against Covid-19 grow in their bodies,” Director of Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) Mahmood-uz-Jahan told this newspaper on July 19.
BENEFITS OF BANGLADESH
Currently, eight — of which six are acceptable according to WHO — organisations are about to conduct late-stage trials of their vaccines in different countries.
None of the Covid-19 vaccines is yet to be proven safe and effective in creating immunity.
Sinovac is currently conducting phase-III trials of their vaccine on several hundred people in different countries.
Already more than 700 people in China, 9,000 in Brazil and more than 1,200 in Indonesia have been given double doses of this vaccine as part of the trial, sources said.
Besides, such a trial is in the offing in Turkey and the UAE.
The Bangladesh government’s decision has placed the country ahead in the race of getting the vaccines, experts said.
Health minister also said the country would get priority once the vaccine is proven safe and effective during the trial.
According to icddr,b officials, an agreement has been signed to this effect between the icddr,b and Sinovac.
Under the contract, Sinovac would provide 110,000 free vaccine doses to Bangladesh if the Phase-III trial of the vaccine is proven safe.
Besides, the company has committed to transferring the technology of the vaccine production in a bulk amount to a “qualified” Bangladeshi producer at a discounted price “to meet the need of the larger population of Bangladesh.”
Talking to The Daily Star, Prof Nazrul Islam, member of National Technical advisory committee said, “We congratulate the government for its decision. This is a big progress in getting the vaccine. There will be a great advancement in the field of vaccine research in the country.”
“There are complexities regarding the issue of vaccines. So, we need to keep more than one source… Actually, we don’t have enough money to buy vaccines for such a large population,” he added.
Prof Sayedur Rahman, chairman of pharmacology at BSMMU and member of the BMRC’s ethical committee that evaluated the vaccine proposal, also welcomed the decision.
“This is a very good decision. I think we are going to have vaccine development capacity through this initiative,” Prof Sayedur said.
He, however, said, “This is a costly vaccine. Sinovac has fixed the vaccine price at $145. We have to stay alert about it.”