A vast cold supply chain is required to preserve vaccine scientifically and administer it on nearly 17 crore population effectively, according to experts.
“If not prepared, the agog wait for the vaccine may end in a big whimper,” said Prof Ijaz Hossain, a teacher of chemical engineering and the dean of engineering faculty at Buet, told The Daily Star.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham and Heriot-Watt University will assess the capacity and preparedness of Bangladesh’s cold-chain framework, Prof Ijaz said.
The one-and-a-half-year project, supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will be completed in collaboration with Brac University and Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), he said.
The outcome is expected to create a blueprint to help ensure a cost-effective model for vaccinating a large number of people for Covid-19, the chemical engineering professor said, adding that the project started in August this year and will continue until February 2022.
A cold chain is a temperature-controlled supply chain to store, manage and transport life-saving vaccines.
The team will design novel methods and instruments to assess Bangladesh’s current cold-chain capacity. They would also try to incorporate renewable energy and energy-efficient solutions while developing the design.
Prof Ijaz said Brac University will collect field-level data and Buet will develop a model based on that data.
He said once we get the vaccines, the main challenge would be efficiently delivering the vaccines to the health centres across the country.
Around 50 million vaccines will have to be injected within six months, but the present capacity of Bangladesh is much lower than that, the Buet professor said.
” … If we fail to deliver the vaccines maintaining proper temperature, then the vaccines will be rendered useless,” he explained.
Ijaz also said the modelling would also help decide who would be vaccinated first, how they would get it and what would be the cost.
“This modelling will help the government to make the vaccine available in an efficient manner to people who need it the most,” he added.
The University of Birmingham in a press statement on September 5 said researchers would assess different intervention scenarios for mass Covid-19 vaccination in Bangladesh.
After the assessment, researchers would be able to provide the Bangladeshi policy-makers with critical information and proposals to shape the country’s immunisation strategies and priorities, the statement said.
They will also make their findings available to other countries to help public health planners evaluate their best options for creating sustainable temperature-controlled supply-chains for health and medical supplies in epidemics and natural disasters.
When contacted, co-investigator of the study Prof Farzana Munshi of Brac University told The Daily Star, “It is crucial to assess the capacity and preparedness of Covid-19 vaccination cold-chains.”
She also said they would assess the cold-chain capacity in Bangladesh by interviewing various stakeholders, including different ministries, GAVI, Unicef, WHO, NGOs, upazila health complexes and district hospitals.
This project will assist policy-makers in designing policies on the most sustainable interventions on medical supply chain at regional, national scale for Covid-19 but also other potential future natural disasters and epidemics.