Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said coronavirus vaccine imports from China and Russia are being delayed because of the health ministry.
"The health ministry has made delays in the processes of getting vaccines commercially from other countries," the foreign minister told the press Thursday in Dhaka.
Abdul Momen said, "We have almost completed the process for the Chinese vaccine import. Beijing sent us three documents. After filling up, we already have sent back two of the papers."
The document which Dhaka sent back Wednesday had one part in English and another in Chinese, he noted, adding the health ministry mistakenly signed only in the Chinese part.
"Later, the document was revised by appointing a professor who is an expert on Chinese language. These are lousy works and the foreign ministry is not responsible for them," he noted.
In a bilateral deal, two countries usually sign on their respective part. But several countries, including China, have their agreement drafts in their languages in addition to English. In this case, the draft agreement has to be signed in both the languages.
Momen said, "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs just makes the contacts while the health ministry is responsible for looking after all the required issues. It is getting a little late there."
Referring to the health ministry's delay in vaccine collection preparations, the foreign minister said, "Our ambassador to Beijing is very disappointed. Because, the process will not end if the paperwork is not finalised. The ambassador called me and texted me. I immediately forwarded it to the health minister, health secretary and the principal secretary."
He also criticised the delay in commercially obtaining the vaccine from Russia.
"Some documents have been signed with Russia while some are yet to be signed. Initially a demand was put forward before Moscow, and then it was changed. The Russians do not like it."
You have to be specific, said the minister, adding, the vaccine dead with Russia hopefully will be completed by this week starting from 21 May.
Already registered Bangladeshis to get Pfizer vaccine
With the new registration and first dose of Covid-19 vaccine suspended, Bangladesh in another development Thursday said it will immunise the already-registered citizens with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus jabs.
At least 1.06 lakh doses of Pfizer vaccine will arrive in Dhaka on 2 June from the international vaccine alliance Gavi under its worldwide vaccination initiative Covax, ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the health directorate, told The Business Standard Thursday.
He said citizens who have already completed the registration for inoculation but did not get the first shot will qualify for Pfizer vaccine.
The health directorate director general added that immunisation with the Pfizer shots could be limited within the capital since the country does not have the required high-level cold-chain facility across the country.
According to the health directorate, 7,248,829 people have been registered to get the Covid-19 vaccine so far. Of them, 5,819,912 citizens have received their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. As many as 1,428,917 people are yet to receive their first shot as the new registration is postponed in the face of supply crunch.
Bangladesh saw an impressive start of its countrywide vaccination programme on 7 February with the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses, targeting people aged 40 and above.
But as the supply of the Oxford vaccines from the Indian Serum Institute became uncertain with rapid infection surge in that country, Bangladesh's immunisation programme hit a snag.
Administering the first dose was suspended from 26 April because of the vaccine shortage created by India stopping all vaccine exports. Now Bangladesh has only 4 lakh doses out of 1.2 crore.
On 12 May, China handed over 5 lakh doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh as a "special gift". The first dose of Chinese vaccine will be administered from 25 May.
ABM Khurshid Alam said only fifth year medical students will get the Chinese vaccine.
"Fifth-year medical college students will be vaccinated with the Chinese shots initially so that they can sit for the medical exam. The tests have been suspended for the last one year. We also have an intern doctor crisis," he told the journalists.
He said the health directorate plans medical colleges reopening after gradual vaccination since the online classes for the medicos "are not enough".