‘Other options, including coproduction of Russian vaccine, remain open’
Despite its high demand in India, Dhaka hopes that New Delhi will supply the rest of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to Bangladesh as agreed between the two countries with other options open.
“India is telling us that it will (March consignment) come but has yet to arrive. We believe their assurance,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told UNB in an interview at his residence.
He said Bangladesh received 3.2 million doses of the vaccine as gifts from India but the consignment of five million doses that was scheduled to arrive in March from India has yet to come.
Bangladesh has purchased 30 million doses of the vaccine from Serum Institute and the first shipment of five million arrived here in January while the second consignment of two million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine came in February.
The foreign minister acknowledged the high demand of vaccines globally, including the demand by some political leaders in India to halt export.
“I think it will not be applicable for us as we have made arrangements and made advance payment. India has announced that the vaccines will be delivered as per schedule, and we believe it,” Dr Momen said.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to place an immediate moratorium on the export of vaccines, fast track approval of other vaccines and open up vaccination to everyone who needs it.
During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit last month, the two countries exchanged views on the situation of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and expressed satisfaction at the manner in which sustained engagement between the two countries has been maintained during the ongoing crisis.
The Bangladesh side thanked the government of India for giving 3.2 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine manufactured in India as a gift and appreciated the prompt delivery of the first batch of five million doses.
Bangladesh requested the Indian side to facilitate the regular delivery of the remaining tranches of vaccine procured by Bangladesh from Serum Institute.
India assured Bangladesh of its best cooperation in accordance with its domestic exigencies and international commitments.
“They are (India) producing more but they cannot meet their own needs. We are communicating with other sources,” Dr Momen said.
Once China showed much interest in providing vaccines to Bangladesh, but Bangladesh did not show interest at that time as their vaccine was not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), he said.
Dr Momen said China administered vaccines for their vast population, which they say without any side effects, apart from proving their vaccine to over 50 countries. “We are continuing discussions with them (China) again so that they can help us.”
The foreign minister said Russia proposed Bangladesh to go for a co-production. “It is not bad. We are keeping our options open.”
He said Russia will give the technology and Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies will produce the Russian vaccine here if things go well. “It will be cheap and hopefully it will be better.”
India has also approved the use of Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said.
Bangladesh was one of the few countries to get the vaccine first, joining hands with its neighbour India amid high demand for it globally.
“It was possible due to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s prudent leadership and farsightedness. She took the initiative from day one,” Dr Momen said.
Like the previous day, 101 people died of Covid-19 during the 24 hours till 8am Saturday, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). This is the highest number of deaths due to Covid-19 recorded in a span of a day so far in the country.