In the wake of uncertainty over getting purchased doses from India, Bangladesh has decided to join China’s COVID-19 vaccine storage facility for South Asia.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen disclosed the decision on joining the Emergency Vaccine Storage Facility for COVID for South Asia on Thursday.
The countries in the region can use the doses from the facility for urgent needs, he said.
“We’ve chosen it in principle,” he said and explained, “because any country can urgently need vaccine and it will be easier to collect the doses without bureaucratic complexities if they are kept together.”
The vaccines for the storage have not been selected or discussed yet, the minister added.
Besides Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka have agreed to join the initiative, according to Momen.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen held a meeting with China’s vice minister on Thursday after China sent the proposal on the facility on Apr 15, the foreign minister said.
A minister-level meeting will be held on the vaccine storage facility on Apr 27, he added.
Bangladesh is using the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, made by the Serum Institute of India, in the mass inoculation drive.
But India has halted export of the vaccine to bolster its own immunisation programme amid a record surge in infections.
Bangladesh has so far received 10.2 million doses of the vaccine from Serum, including 3.2 million doses as gift from the Indian government, but the export ban put the delivery of expected doses under a deal for 30 million shots in uncertainty.
With India’s coronavirus situation sliding into a deeper crisis, Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami on Thursday said his country was taking steps so that Bangladesh can continue its vaccination campaign.
The government already began exploring alternatives to India for the sourcing of the vaccine to ensure smooth continuation of the immunisation drive.
The foreign minister said Bangladesh will buy vaccine doses from China and Russia as well.
China will initially send 600,000 doses as gift, according to him.
Russia has offered Bangladesh joint production of its Sputnik-V vaccine, but the government will first buy some doses, Momen said. “We can’t go into production tomorrow even if we want to. It takes time.”
Bangladesh had earlier backed off from buying the Chinese and Russian vaccines because they did not have approval of the World Health Organization, the minister said.
The WHO, however, did not object when dozens of countries ordered tens of millions of doses of the vaccines, Momen said, explaining the change in the government’s position on the shots.