Bangladesh will receive the COVID-19 vaccine from India by the end of this month in keeping with the discussions between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the foreign minister has said amid concerns over the timing of its arrival.
“The health minister said [it would arrive] towards the end of this month. So it will arrive at that time. There will be no changes in that,” AK Abdul Momen said on Monday.
Bangladesh has signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India for 30 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. According to the contract, Serum Institute will send five million doses a month.
Hopes for Bangladesh of receiving the vaccine doses soon were boosted after India’s regulators approved the emergency use of the shots on Sunday.
Serum Institute, the Indian maker of the AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccine, said on Sunday it intends to concentrate on meeting India’s own immediate demand in the next two months before exporting to other interested countries.
That raised questions over whether the drug’s arrival in Bangladesh would be delayed.
Serum Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said in an interview with Reuters, after the shot was approved for emergency use in the world’s second-most populous country, that exports might be possible after supplying the Indian government with an initial 100 million doses.
When Health Minister Zahid Maleque was asked about the matter earlier on Monday, he said, “They’ve assured us that it would not disrupt our agreement. There will be no issues. We are continuing the discussions.”
Foreign Minister Momen later said, “We received an update from the Indian foreign ministry that our bilateral agreement with India will go ahead as planned.”
“They’ve said that Bangladesh will be the first to receive the vaccines as the decision was made at the top level, it came in a meeting between (the prime ministers). So no ban will be applicable to this. There’s no reason to worry about this. They’ve said ‘Bangladesh must not be concerned’.”
Pointing out India’s promise that ‘Bangladesh will get it as soon as India does’, he said, “That commitment will be implemented. India and Bangladesh will get [vaccines] at the same time.”
On the recent statement of Serum Institute’s chief, Momen said, “They may not have it. India will provide the vaccines to Bangladesh, the decision was taken at the top level. They will put it into effect.”
“The Indian foreign ministry told this to us. There is no reason to worry and fret over this.”
Shedding light on what the Indian foreign ministry said, Momen pointed out, “They said the statement from the Serum Institute’s chief executive has no relation with Indian government’s policy. [The statement] is personal and premature.
"He said a bit too much a bit too early.”
“The Indian government said a commitment that has been made at the highest level will be implemented. So we have no reason to worry about it.”
On whether the government is looking for alternative vaccines, Momen said, “We are giving it different kinds of thoughts.”
The health minister had also said that Bangladesh was in talks with Russia and other countries over vaccines, but moves cannot yet be made as ‘the trials were still incomplete’.
Bangladesh has asked for details of the vaccines from China.