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Momen: Health Ministry causing delay in Covid-19 vaccine procurement

  • Published at 06:28 pm May 20th, 2021
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen adressing the press in Dhaka on Thursday, May 20, 2021 Focus Bangla

He attributes the delay to the ‘lousy work’ of the ministry

The import of Covid-19 vaccines from China and Russia is getting delayed due to the inefficiency of the Health Ministry in wrapping up the necessary procedure, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has said.

He described their performance in dealing with the official documents involving China as “lousy work".

The minister was talking to reporters after a meeting with South Korean Ambassador Lee Jang-Keun at the state guesthouse Padma in Dhaka on Thursday, reports Bangla Tribune.

"China sent three documents and we have sent back two of them. One of them was sent yesterday [Wednesday], and a part of that document was in Chinese and the other in English.

“While sending, we signed the Chinese part. Afterwards, we had that corrected by a professor of Chinese. These are lousy work and the Foreign Ministry didn’t do that," he said.

Stating that his ministry just helped contact the authorities concerned abroad over the vaccine procurement, Dr Momen said: “The Health Ministry takes care of the rest of the formalities, which are being delayed. 

“For this reason, our ambassador to Beijing is frustrated since the process [to procure the vaccine] will not be complete if the documents are not finalized,” he said.

The Bangladesh ambassador, Dr Momen said, texted and phoned him. “I instantly conveyed the message to the Health Ministry, the health secretary and the principal secretary to the prime minister,” Momen further said.

His comments came just a day after the government approved a proposal in principle to procure the Covid-19 vaccine from Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned enterprise. 

According to the minister, the paperwork with Russia regarding vaccine procurement is not going smoothly either. 

“Some of the documents regarding the deal with Russia have been inked, while some have not. The number of vaccine doses has been revised. This is something Russians do not like.

“… We’re busy dealing with these things but hope to complete the formalities by this week. The sales agreement with Russia is not ready yet. It will be done soon,” he concluded.

In late April, the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) approved the emergency use of Russia's Sputnik V Covid vaccine in Bangladesh.

The Covid-19 vaccines 

Bangladesh launched its nationwide vaccination drive on February 7 with Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased from the Serum Institute of India (SII).

The country has so far received seven million doses in two phases in January and February from SII through a contract, signed for 30 million doses. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses as a bilateral partnership gift.

But a record number of cases in India has made the delivery of the rest of the doses uncertain after the Indian government imposed a ban on vaccine export in order to meet its local demand.

Due to the vaccine shortage, the administration of the first dose in Bangladesh was suspended on April 26. The authorities have also suspended the vaccine registration process.

Amid the shortage, as many as 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, donated by the Chinese government to Bangladesh, arrived in Dhaka on May 12.

The health authorities currently have around 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for the second shot, but there are over two million people who are waiting for the second jab.

In light of the situation, the government has also approached the US for immediate delivery of four million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from its 60 million vials, which the Biden administration wants to send to different countries.

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