Russia proposes manufacturing its vaccine in Bangladesh: Momen

Publish: 6:57 PM, April 20, 2021 | Update: 6:57:PM, April 20, 2021

DHAKA, – Russia has proposed to manufacture its ‘Sputnik’ COVID-19 vaccine in Bangladesh in collaboration with the local pharmaceuticals under a co-production arrangement while Bangladesh is searching other sources apart from India to get the much demanded inoculation.

“We agreed with them (Russia) in co-production (of vaccine) … though it’s not finalized yet,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told BSS in a recent interview here.

Dr Momen said Moscow gave the proposal to manufacture its vaccine here as currently Russia does not have that much production capacity to export its vaccine to Bangladesh.

As per the proposal, Russia will give the technology and Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies will produce the Sputnik vaccine here, he said.

“If things go well … It will be cheap and hopefully it will be better,” he added. Recently, India has also approved the use of Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, as the country faces vaccine shortages amid an intensifying second wave of the deadly COVID-19 virus.

After fearing that India could get run out of vaccine for its own citizens while its opposition leaders demanding an immediate moratorium on the export of vaccines, Dhaka started vigorously hunting for other sources including China for getting the high demanded inoculation.

The minister said Bangladesh didn’t show much interest about Chinese vaccine earlier as their vaccine is not approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). “But, now we are keeping open all options to get vaccine,” Momen said.

However, he said, China has informed Bangladesh that they would not be able to export any vaccine before December as they have already given commitment to other countries to supply their vaccine. Besides, he said, the World Bank recently informed Bangladesh to provide 80 lack doses of vaccine under COVAX by next month. “We are hopeful to get those vaccines under COVAX,” he said.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and THO that aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccine, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

On January 21, Bangladesh received its first ever COVID-19 vaccine consignment while India sent 20 million doses as gift as part of their neighborhood plus policy. Later, during the visit of Indian premier Narendra Modi here, Bangladesh also got 1.2 million doses of vaccine as gift.

Apart from the gift, Bangladesh purchased 30 million doses of India-made vaccine under a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on November 5 and a subsequent agreement on December 13 among Bangladesh government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

As per the agreement, Bangladesh is supposed to receive 5 million doses in each month, but after the first consignment of 5 million, Dhaka is yet to receive the second consignment of 5 million that was scheduled to arrive here by March.

“They (India) have been telling us that they would send the vaccines… they never said that they couldn’t,” Momen said, adding that Dhaka keeps confidence in Indian assurance and is hopeful to get all the 30 million doses of vaccine within the timeframe of the agreement.

However, the minister said, Dhaka feared that Indian vaccine production is not enough considering their internal demand and international commitments. “They (India) have taken more orders than have met,” he added.

Momen said, the government is also considering to engage the private sector in importing and marketing commercially expensive vaccine like the Pfizer-BioNTech one in the Bangladesh market to meet the demand.

The foreign minister said Bangladesh was one of the few countries to get the vaccine first due to farsighted leadership of Prime minister Sheikh Hasina as she took initiatives regarding this from the day one of spreading the virus. The government aims to vaccinate 80 percent of the total population free of cost to check the spreading of the deadly virus.

In Bangladesh, so far, nearly 5.5 million people have received the first dose of the vaccine while around seven million more registered for the vaccination.