Russia has agreed to transfer the formula for producing Sputnik V vaccine in Bangladesh while the government has in principle agreed to join a China-led effort to develop a Covid vaccine storage to mitigate the vaccine crisis created after India imposed ban on vaccine export.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday told New Age that the government had recently signed a contract with Russia for joint production of Sputnik V vaccine in Bangladesh on condition that the formula would be kept secret.
Till the joint production starts in Bangladesh, the government will also import Sputnik V vaccine to meet emergency needs, he said.
‘A list of local pharmaceuticals companies capable of producing vaccines has been sent to Russia,’ Momen said.
The Covid vaccination in Bangladesh has faced an uncertainty over the Indian export ban as the government till Thursday has a stock of 27.22 lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India.
The government, which has given 75 lakh doses to people with 17 lakh getting two doses, has a plan to vaccinate 70 per cent of the total population, said Directorate General of Health Services spokesperson Robed Amin.
The foreign minister said that Russia would not be able to export such a huge volume of vaccines.
So, Bangladesh on Thursday agreed to the China’s April 15 offer for developing a storage of Chinese Covid vaccine for emergency use in South Asia.
‘China, however, did not mention the timeframe or the location for developing the storage,’ Momen said.
He said that the government was negotiating with both China and Russia for importing or manufacturing in Bangladesh Covid vaccines developed by them.
‘Though Covid vaccines developed by China and Russia have not got approval from the World Health Organisation, several countries are successfully using the vaccines,’ Momen said.
He said that the government was negotiating with India through formal and informal channels to get the vaccines, for which the payment had been made, from Serum Institute as per the contract.
‘We are also negotiating with US manufacturers like Pfizer and Moderna for bringing their vaccines,’ he added.
The government on Tuesday formed an eight-member committee, led the Directorate General of Drug Administration director general to send recommendations to the Prime Minister’s Office by April 26 on using alternatives to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for continuing the mass Covid vaccination programme.
Drug administration director general Major General Md Mahbubur Rahman told New Age on Thursday that they were considering potential of brining the vaccine developed by the US-based Moderna, Sputnik V developed in Russia and CoronaVac developed by Sinovac in China.
‘We are also considering the possibilities of manufacturing Sputnik V or CoronaVac in Bangladesh by the Institute of Public Health or any other private pharmaceuticals company as a long term solution,’ Mahbub said.
On Wednesday, Chinese ambassador Li Jiming in a letter requested health minister Zahid Maleque for taking immediate measures to give approval to the letter of commitment for the receipt of CoronaVac vaccine donation and the authorisation of emergency use of the vaccine in Bangladesh.
The Chinese government has offered to donate five lakh doses of Covid vaccine to Bangladesh after India first imposed a ban on export of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in January, health ministry officials said.
Health minister Zahid Maleque could not be contacted for comments.
An official of the ministry said that the Chinese offer would be approved only after getting a clearance from the top level of the government.
He said that local pharmaceutical company Renata Limited expressed its desire to manufacture the vaccine developed by the US-based Moderna.
Beximco Pharmaceuticals Company, the local vendor of Serum Institute, has sought a government intervention for the supply of remaining 2.30 crore vaccine doses from India as per a tripartite contract.
As per the contract signed in December 2020, the Bangladesh government would pay Serum Institute $4 for the import of each of the three crore doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and $1 to Beximco for carrying each of the doses.
After signing the contract, the government stopped negotiation with China and Russia, the official said, adding that till March, Bangladesh got 70 lakh doses of the purchased vaccine and 32 lakh additional doses as donation from the Indian government.
Health ministry officials said that the government was expecting to get from the Global Access Facility 6.8 crore doses of Covid vaccines, of which 1.9 crore doses were expected to arrive in Dhaka by May.
DGHS additional director general Meerjady Sabrina Flora said that the agency was working to place a demand of vaccines in Bangladesh to COVAX by Saturday as per its requirements.
‘We will get 6.8 crore doses for free and for each of the additional doses we will have to pay $7,’ Sebrina said.
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