Uncertainty looms over vaccine availability 

Arrival time of 10 lakh Covax doses not known

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 00:00, Jun 12,2021


The uncertainty over resuming the full-scale vaccination continued to prevail as there is no clear indication when and from where the government would be able to get a substantial consignment of Covid vaccine doses for the purpose.  

The Covax initiative would provide Bangladesh with some 10 lakh doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told journalists on Friday.

There was, however, no mention (from Covax) as to when the consignment would be delivered, he said. 

Bangladesh authorities are making frantic efforts to meet a shortage of about 15 lakh Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses for the second-dose inoculation of the people who have already received the first dose a few weeks ago.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been jointly developed by AstraZeneca plc, a British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotech company, and the University of Oxford.

The Covax programme has been jointly taken by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organisation to provide Covid vaccines to the countries in need.

A consignment of six lakh more doses of the Sinopharm vaccine is likely to be airlifted to Dhaka on Sunday from Beijing provided by China as gift, according to diplomatic sources in Beijing.

The drug administration of Bangladesh has so far approved five Covid vaccines — Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sputnik V and Sinovac — for emergency use in the country.

The government has been in separate negotiations to procure the Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines from China and the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia for some time.

The Chinese authorities, however, could not confirm yet when they would be able to provide substantial doses of any of the two vaccines the two sides were talking about. 

The government has opened the discussion with the Chinese side to buy the Sinovac vaccine recently but there is no ready stock for an instant delivery, an official aware of the matter told New Age.

Chinese ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming indicated last week that the discussion on delivering vaccines to Bangladesh was going on.

The move to procure the Sinopharm vaccine has faced a setback as a senior Bangladesh government official disclosed the vaccine’s unit price to journalists in violation of the non-disclosure condition of the agreement. 

The government has, meanwhile, started vaccinating medical students after getting a consignment of five lakh Sinopharm doses as gift.

The talks with Russia on procuring one crore Sputnik V vaccine doses are in an advanced stage, foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told New Age, adding that the two sides are likely to engage in a second round of discussion next week.

The government has begun to explore alternative sources of Covid vaccines after its nation-wide inoculation campaign has come to a halt due to the failure of the Serum Institute of India to deliver the agreed Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses.

Under a contract with the Bangladesh government, the Serum India was scheduled to supply three crore doses of the vaccine to Bangladesh by June 2021, but the company stopped supplying it in March after sending only 70 lakh doses.

The administration of the second jab of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to those who have received the first shot of the two-dose vaccine remains suspended due to its non-availability.

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