Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram K Doraiswami said the most crucial thing for Bangladesh over getting Covid-19 vaccine is that the top level of Indian government has already assured the neighbour.
"Let the supply start, he [Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi] promised about the shots. The company has also promised that they would supply the vaccine to the Indian government. Let them start the production and distribution," he told the press after a meeting with Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury at the Secretariat Thursday.
Asked when Bangladesh would get the vaccine, the Indian high commissioner said neither the Indian health ministry nor the commerce ministry had banned vaccine export.
"We have been saying, and our prime minister has also said that our vaccine would be used for humanity. The priority, for us, is of course India, our people, and then our neighbours. What other assurance can we give," he added.
India produces about 60% of numerous vaccines the world uses every year. Many countries, including Bangladesh, are waiting for the first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from the neighbouring country.
The Serum Institute of India is involved in the production and marketing of the coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Bangladesh signed an agreement last November to buy 3 crore doses of Oxford vaccine through Beximco Pharmaceuticals produced at the Serum Institute.
But quoting Serum Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla, international media outlets on Sunday night reported that the company would insist on meeting India's domestic demand first in the next two months before exports.
The news raised concerns over getting the vaccine by neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh in time. However, Health Minister Zahid Maleque, Health Service Division secretary Abdul Mannan, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Managing Director Nazmul Hassan held separate press conferences Monday to reassure everyone.
Vikram Doraiswami Thursday said several Indian companies had started vaccine production, and their shots have been approved for emergency use. The Indian government has not imposed any restrictions on exports.
"The rest depends on how many shots they can produce. It is something I cannot control, or no one can control. It depends on the production. The more the companies can produce, the more they can export."
Land Minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury said India is an excellent neighbour of Bangladesh. The relationship between Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached a different height.
"We always can cooperate, and we are doing that," he added.
Highlighting the meeting topics with the Indian high commissioner, the minister said they talked about land management reforms.
"We also discussed the digitisation of the land ministry and ways to boost up cooperation."