Bangladesh seeks vaccine from US
Dhaka wants the Oxford-AstraZeneca shots as a grant from Washington
The government has sent a letter to the US through the diplomatic channel, seeking Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses as a grant.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said if the jabs are not available as a grant, Dhaka is willing to buy the vaccine from Washington.
The move came in the wake of a shortage of some 13 lakh doses in the Oxford vaccine stock, which has made the second round of the jab uncertain and made the government suspend the first round.
"They [the United States] have not yet responded to our letter. But we are trying to get it from the United States," said the foreign minister, but he did not mention how many doses Bangladesh has sought from the US.
The foreign minister on Tuesday told the UNB that the US has decided to share its entire stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines with the world once it clears federal safety reviews.
"We sought vaccines from the US as they have a stock of 60 million doses. We would definitely welcome it," Momen said.
He noted that the US assured all concerned of making Covid-19 vaccines available for other countries, including in Bangladesh, once they have surplus reaching the level of mass vaccination in the US.
Bangladesh in February started its mass immunisation programme solely relying on the Oxford vaccine manufactured at the Serum Institute of India. Due to the recent supply shortage, the first dose of inoculation has already been postponed while concerns grow over the second dose.
In the meantime, India has ruled out the possibility of any vaccine supply in the near future.
In the face of the shortage, the government is trying to bring the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from alternative sources to India as Bangladesh is now also in contact with China and Russia for vaccine supply.
Terming Dhaka-Beijing ties a "special friendship", Momen said Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently informed them that vaccine doses will start arriving in Dhaka before Eid while Health Minister Zahid Maleque shared a more specific date – May 10.
"The Health Ministry will decide when and how many doses of the vaccine will arrive, and what will be the transportation system," Momen told UNB, adding that they just have helped the health ministry establish the network with both China and Russia as alternative sources of vaccines.
The foreign minister said everything is now closed in China due to a five-day May Day holiday.
"It takes some time as vaccines are produced based on orders," Momen said, adding that discussions with Russia and the United States are on to get vaccines.
China was supposed to give 5 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift apart from supplying vaccines through commercial purchase.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reaffirmed that the government will procure vaccines at any cost to protect people from coronavirus. "We are bringing more vaccines, no matter how much money is required; we will bring more vaccines," she said.
The first meeting of the inter-ministerial advisory committee on coronavirus vaccine procurement and distribution will be held at 10am Wednesday. The meeting will determine the vaccine demand, safe and effective vaccines, their prices, collection and distribution method.