Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said the government has intensified its efforts to have vaccine jabs from the United States (US) as it will share up to 60 million doses of its Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with other countries.
“We’re expecting it (vaccine) much,” Dr Momen told reporters at his residence adding that Bangladesh Ambassador to US M Shahidul Islam is in touch with the officials concerned of the US government.
The Foreign Minister said US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller is likely to meet him on Thursday to have an update on the overall issues, including oxygen supply to Bangladesh.
“But we’ve heard that their priority is India and Brazil as many people died in these two countries recently,” he said.
Dr Momen said the Indian diaspora is strongly lobbying with the US government so that the US sends a whole lot of vaccine doses to India. “They’re very powerful. One lady is taking the lead.”
He also requested the Bangladeshi diaspora to approach the US government so that they feel the urgency with communication from all sides.
Dr Momen said the United States assured the world of making Covid-19 vaccines available for other countries, including in Bangladesh, once they have surplus reaching the level of mass vaccination in the US.
“I can assure you when we can reach the level of the critical mass vaccination and we’ve surplus, we’ll absolutely make vaccines available in whatever different ways,” said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate told reporters during his recent visit to Bangladesh.
Dr Momen said they had received proposals from other sources like receiving vaccines from some European countries which they are not using.
“But their total amount of available vaccines is very small in size whereas we need 2 lakh vaccines per day,” he said adding that the possibility of that front is not very bright.
The Foreign Minister reiterated that the Chinese government is working to start delivering 5 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift before Eid al-Fitr as two dates are mentioned – May 10 or 12.
He said Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently informed them that vaccines will start arriving here before Eid while the Health Minister Zahid Maleque shared a more specific date -- May 10.
Responding to a question, the Foreign Minister said the government is not shifting its attention from India as there is an agreement with Serum Institute of India to get 3 crore doses of vaccine.
He said India is yet to reply as Bangladesh sought at least 30 lakh doses of vaccine under the agreement to address the immediate demand in Bangladesh. “We’ll procure vaccines wherever we get those.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reaffirmed that the government will procure vaccines at any cost to protect people from coronavirus. "We’re bringing more vaccines, no matter how much money is required; we will bring more vaccines."
Bangladesh has received 7 million of Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine doses produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) through its contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift. This is the largest amount sent from India to any country.
The Foreign Minister said Russia is very interested to give vaccines to Bangladesh and sent documents to have a government-to-government agreement.
“They shared their issues. Our Health Ministry will share their points,” Dr Momen said he had a conversation with Health Minister Zahid Maleque, especially wanting to know what will be the penalty if they fail to deliver vaccines timely after signing an agreement.