Beximco Pharmaceuticals Managing Director Nazmul Hasan has called upon the government to take strong steps to get the coronavirus vaccine from India, as per the agreement with the Serum Institute of the neighbouring country.
He made the observation while talking to reporters after receiving the second dose of corona vaccine at the Kurmitola General Hospital in the capital on Saturday afternoon, amid uncertainty over the supply of the vaccine as the remaining stock would finish in just less than two weeks.
"If Serum Institute does not supply vaccine in time, there will be a crisis of second dose. The government should raise the issue strongly, as it has already paid the price of one and a half crore dose of vaccine in advance," Nazmul said, adding that the institute has no right to halt vaccine supply after receiving payment in advance.
As per a deal with India's Serum Institute and Beximco, the Bangladesh government was supposed to get 50 lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine every month. Bangladesh has so far received 70 lakh doses in two shipments under the deal.
The first consignment of 50 lakh doses of Oxford vaccine arrived in Dhaka from India on 25 January this year. Later, the second batch of 20 lakh doses came on 22 February.
The country rolled out mass inoculation on 7 February with the vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute. Bangladesh now has only 22.45 lakh doses of vaccine out of 1.2 crore doses.
More than one and a half lakh people are now getting vaccinated every day on average. If this continues, the vaccine doses will run out in the next 10-12 days.
Nazmul Hasan said, "In no way India can halt the supply as the government had paid in advance. It is not acceptable at all to halt vaccine supply after taking the money. Soon, shortages of second dose will be created if India does not abide by the agreement."
He said, "The CEO of Serum Institute has informed us in black and white that their government is holding them back. So, I am appealing to our government. There is no reason for us to remain silent. The government should say clearly that we have paid in advance and you must supply the vaccine in due time. It has to be said strongly, not unofficially over the phone."
"Let India supply the remaining 8 million doses of vaccine. Then we are not going to take more vaccines from them. We will look at the alternative sources. India has no right to stop the supply, no matter whatever crisis it is facing itself. We don't need to know what happens to India. We believed them and booked the October batch with advance money. Now we must get the vaccines," he added.
Asked what would happen if the vaccine is not given, the Beximco Pharma MD said, "We have nothing to do here. The government was supposed to pay the money first, the government has done that. Beximco's responsibility is to arrange for the transportation, storage and distribution of vaccines after it arrives here; that's what we're doing."
He further said that India is a friend of Bangladesh and it has to prove that now. There is no need to talk so sweetly. We do not want mercy from India; we want the vaccine that we have paid for.