Health Desk – 29 Mar, 2021: Bangladesh is facing uncertainty over getting the next tranche of coronavirus vaccine doses amid reports that India has temporarily halted the export of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University shot produced by Serum Institute.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque says he is unsure when Bangladesh will receive the next batch of doses. A delay in receiving the COVID vaccine will affect the mass immunisation programme.
on Sunday, he said the government had asked the Serum Institute of India about the matter through Beximco Pharmaceuticals, the exclusive distributor of the vaccine in Bangladesh. But no timescale has been confirmed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina “strongly” urged her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to send the vaccine doses in time during his Mar 26-27 visit to Bangladesh, Maleque said.
“They (India) said they will make arrangements to send the doses,” he said, “but we haven’t got a date yet.”
Modi brought along 1.2 million doses of the vaccine as gift on Friday on the two-day trip to join the celebrations of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth anniversary and the golden jubilee of Bangladesh.
Earlier, the Indian government sent two million doses as gift and another seven million doses under the purchase deal for 30 million shots.
Bangladesh is expected to receive five million doses per month under the deal.
But India has recently put a temporary halt on exports of the coronavirus vaccine as it plans to ramp up its own immunisation drive amid a resurgence of infection. It has not sent vaccine abroad since Mar 18, according the website of the country’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Bangladesh launched the mass immunisation drive on Feb 7 after getting the first batch of vaccine. The authorities are scheduled to begin giving the second doses on Apr 8.
Until Sunday, over 5.2 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine while over 6.4 million citizens have registered for the vaccine.
If the government needs to preserve the rest of the 10.2 million doses for the second shots now, no new people will get the vaccine.
If it continues giving the first shot, there will be uncertainty over the second shot in time in case of a delay in receiving the expected doses.
“When we had made the plan, we had assumed that the vaccine doses would arrive, but no (purchased) shots arrived in March. Won’t we be in huge trouble if the Serum Institute can’t give us the vaccine?” asked Dr Mohammad Robed Amin, a spokesman for the Directorate General of Health Services.
Serum, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, has so far exported 65 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to 76 countries, including 17.7 million shots to the COVAX programme led by the World Health Organization.
India should not stop sending the vaccine doses purchased under the deal, said Maleque. “We have cleared the payment as per the deal because we hope we’ll get the vaccine.”
“If the supply is disrupted, it will affect the trend of vaccination a bit,” he added.
Rabbur Reza, chief operating officer of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, did not take calls for comments.