Early COVAX vaccine sought as inoculation may stall in Bangladesh

Ershad Kamol | Published: 00:36, Apr 25,2021 | Updated: 22:35, Apr 25,2021


Bangladesh government has requested the Gavi-coordinated Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, generally known as COVAX, to supply the vaccine doses it has offered to Bangladesh for May earlier than the schedule to overcome the likely supply crisis that might stall the country’s mass vaccination programme.

In a letter on Wednesday the government requested COVAX to provide the vaccine doses for May two weeks earlier than the stipulated third week of the month, Directorate General of Health Services director and spokesperson Mohammad Robed Amin told New Age on Saturday.

‘The government has expressed concern to COVAX over continuing its mass vaccination drive, saying that our stock will exhaust soon as we have not received the expected vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India,’ Robed said.

COVAX has offered to give Bangladesh 2.3 crore doses, out of the total 6.8 crore to be provided, in the third week of May, he said. 

The government, he noted, initiated the mass vaccination campaign in February with the target to vaccinate 13 crore or 70 per cent of the total population after getting the confirmation to have by April more than 1.5 crore doses of the total three crore it has bought from the Serum Institute.

But so far Bangladesh has obtained 1.02 crore doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine manufactured by the Serum India, including 32 lakh doses as donation, Robed said, adding that India has suspended exporting the vaccine since March.

As of Saturday the government had less than 25 lakh doses in its stock which might be spent within the first week of May, Robed said.

He also said that both the government and Beximco Pharma Limited, the local vendor of the Serum Institute, were persuading the Serum to supply the vaccines as per the contract.     

Beximco Pharma managing director Nazmul Hasan on Saturday told the press that the Serum Institute had delivered only 70 lakh doses of the Covid vaccine though the government had in advance paid for 1.5 crore doses scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh by April.

‘The Serum has no right to suspend exporting the vaccine violating the contract,’ Nazmul said.

He sought government action to obtain the vaccines bought as per the contract.

‘Only sweet words won’t work. It’s time to realise our right,’ Nazmul said toward the government.

On Saturday foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told New Age that prime minister Sheikh Hasina and the foreign ministry had requested India several times so that Bangladesh could get its vaccine doses in accordance with the contract signed in December 2020.

‘Beximco is the local vendor of the Indian company. It should now take actions against the Indian company,’ Momen said.

‘It was because of Beximco’s pressure in their business interest that the government could not have alternative vaccine sources though both Russia and China had approached Bangladesh to sign deals,’ Momen went on. 

As per the deal with the Serum, the Bangladesh government would pay it $4 for each of the three crore doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Beximco $1 for carrying each of the doses.

The Serum is also a key supplier for COVAX that would distribute vaccines to 172 countries around the world with priority to the poor nations in Africa, reported several international agencies.

On March 25 COVAX announced a major setback in its vaccine rollout plan as a surge in infections in India caused the Serum to cater only to India’s domestic demand, resulting in delays in global shipments of up to nine crore doses, Hindustan Times reported.

AstraZeneca, the developer of the coronavirus vaccine, has sent a legal notice to the manufacturer Serum for the delays in deliveries, several

international media reported citing Serum’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla.

Poonawalla, however, told The AP that they would be able to resume exports by June if new infections subside in India.

The EU was preparing to take legal actions against the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca over the slow delivery of the Covid vaccine, Brussels has confirmed, reported the UK-based the Independent on Thursday.

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