Russian Direct Investment Fund has initially offered for sale four million doses of Sputnik V to Bangladesh at the rate of $19.5, or Tk 1,653.63, for two doses required for vaccinating one person.
Based on the offer letter from the Russian company, officials of the health ministry, the Directorate General of Health Services and Drugs Administration are working to fix the purchasing rate, DGHS spokesperson Md Robed Amin told New Age on Thursday.
‘The Russian company in its offer letter did not, however, clearly said that shipment charge for carrying the vaccine to Bangladesh maintaining required temperature between 2° Centigrade and 8° Centigrade,’ said Robed, also a DGHS director.
On May 2, the foreign ministry secretary Masud Bin Momen, in a letter, requested the health ministry secretary Lokman Hossain Miah to give health ministry opinion on an emergency basis for conducting a government to a government supply agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund.
After signing the agreement, RDIF would assign its factories to produce 10,000 to 15,000 doses of Sputnik V for Bangladesh¸ the letter said. After manufacturing the vaccine, the letter added, RDIF would serve a notice of readiness and also would contact the shipment company.
After the payment is made, the letter said, RDIF would supply vaccines to Bangladesh in a week.
Bangladesh government signed an agreement with Russia on the third week in April for purchasing and locally producing Sputnik V in Bangladesh on the condition of not displacing the formula, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said. Bangladesh government also sent names of three potential private companies to Russia, he said.
On April 27, the Drugs Administration gave approval for the emergency use of Sputnik V in Bangladesh as the 61st country in the world. Sputnik V, based on human adenoviral vectors, is one of three vaccines, including vaccines developed by the US companies Pfizer and Moderna, that have an efficacy of over 90 per cent against the coronavirus disease.
On April 28, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved in principle the local co-production of Russia’s Sputnik V and China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines involving Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies.
On April 25, Bangladesh had to suspend its mass vaccination programme as part of its fight against Covid-19 after getting no supply of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine despite lobbying with the Indian government and Serum Institute of India for over a month to get the remaining 2.30 crore doses of purchased vaccines.
In November 2020, Bangladesh signed a tripartite contract with Serum Institute to procure three crore doses of vaccines at the rate of $4 per dose and $1 per carrying the vaccine through Serum’s local vendor Beximco Pharmaceuticals Limited.
Though the government paid Tk 1,455.08 crore to Serum in advance for the procurement of three crore doses by June, the Indian company supplied only 70 lakh doses until February that created a shortage of vaccine doses and forced Bangladesh to look for alternative sources.
In addition, Bangladesh got 32 lakh doses of vaccine as a donation from India.
On Wednesday, finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that Serum Institute would have to supply the vaccine in line with the contract made as per international rules and regulations or would have to refund money.
Health minister Zahid Maleque in a virtual programme on Thursday said that Bangladesh was contacting countries that were producing Oxford-AstraZeneca or had its stocks.
‘We are expecting to get five lakh doses of vaccines soon from China as a donation. We are also negotiating with Russia for importing and locally producing Sputnik V,’ health minister said. He also said that about 60 lakh people got the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and over 30 lakh people got two doses of the vaccine.
DGHS spokesperson Robed Amin said that the government set a plan to vaccinate 70 per cent of the total population to mitigate the Covid outbreak. ‘We have not yet received a confirmation date of arrival of one lakh doses of Pfizer-produced vaccine from COVAX though we requested them to send those on an emergency basis in the first week of May,’ Robed said.
COVAX promised to give Bangladesh 6.8 crore doses of vaccines in installments, he said.
‘We will resume vaccination only after the arrival of fresh consignments,’ Robed added.
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