Indian vaccines preferred, buying Chinese for immediate need

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Kolkata: A healthcare worker prepares to vaccinate beneficiaries during the COVID-19 dry run for immunization activity in Kolkata. (File Photo: Kuntal Chakrabarty/IANS)

Bangladesh has decided to buy 15 million doses of China’s Sinopharm anti-Covid vaccines in sheer desperation to continue its immunisation programme, but a top official of the country’s health ministry said India-made AstraZeneca vaccines is their preferred choice.

“We had to look for Chinese and Russian alternatives only after we failed to get the vaccines from Pune’s Serum Institute. We realise the grim situation in India and Serum’s current inability to deliver on its promised supplies,” said the top health ministry official, but on the condition of anonymity because he was not officially authorised to brief the media.

He told IANS that Bangladesh government was “only too eager” to offer joint production facilities to Serum Institute in partnership with ‘whichever Bangladesh company it chose to produce the vaccine with.’

“My Minister is prepared to directly negotiate this deal with Serum bosses like Poonawalla. We would love to have Serum set up production in Bangladesh ,we are totally flexible on terms and we are sure a good bit of these vaccines can be exported after our huge demand is met because prices will be competetive than those made in India,” said the top health ministry official.

He said India and Bangladesh together can make South Asia the pharmacy of the world.

India has gifted Bangladesh three million SII manufactured vaccines free and supplied another 7 million on payment before being trimped by the massive Covid surge at home.

China stepped in immediately to provide free supplies after fuming over rejection of its vaccines last year.

On Tuesday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that Bangladesh will buy 15 million doses of Sinopharm vaccines from China and the first consignment may arrive in June.

He said that there have been positive discussions between the two countries and a deal is almost final. The total consignment will arrive in three phases � five millions in each month of June, July and August.

Delhi is trying to get the US supply atleast 3 million doses of vaccine to Bangladesh and 7 million doses to India to tide over the immediate crisis on both countries .

When asked why his ministry was sitting on a Bharat Biotech proposal to co-produce anti-Covid vaccines, the Bangladesh health ministry official said : ” We are waiting for WHO to recognise their vaccine.”

Bharat Biotech has said it expects WHO recognition by July.

The official said his ministry has only authorised three non-disclosure agreements with Incepta Pharma, Popular Pharma and One Pharma of Bangladesh to co-produce Russian and Chinese vaccines.

“But no co-production deals have been inked,” he said, adding we ” keenly expect Serum Institute to co-produce in Bangladesh.”

Bangladesh watcher Sukhoranjan Dasgupta told IANS: “Serum should seize the Bangladesh offer because it will be win win for both countries. ”

” With a production base in Bangladesh and later West Bengal, SII can service not only the whole of Eastern South Asia but also export to East and Southeast Asia. Poonawalla should read the geo-economic call in the Bangladesh offer.”

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