Bangladesh mounts diplomatic campaign to secure COVID-19 vaccine

·3-min read

Dhaka, May 22 (PTI) Bangladesh has mounted a diplomatic campaign as part of its desperate efforts to get the coronavirus vaccine amid fears that the B1.617.2 variant of COVID-19 that first emerged in India could rapidly spread in the neighbouring country.

Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen has described the vaccine situation in the country a 'crisis' and said that Bangladesh is 'desperate' to get the vaccines from the US, China, Canada, Russia and the UK apart from India.

On Saturday, he made the appeal on British TV channel ITV News, a day after he appeared on the CNN network with an identical appeal.

Momen said Bangladesh tried to close its porous borders with India but could not prevent the influx of people and around 3,350 Bangladeshis returned from India through Benapole land port alone from April 26 till date.

They feared many more could have carried the virus through the borders beyond detection though the detection rate still remained low.

'You know that Bangladesh and India have a very good relationship -- we tried to close the border so that people from India don't come, but a lot of people came and many Bangladeshis went there and they're coming back,' Momen told the CNN.

He told newsmen in Dhaka that Bangladesh has so far officially sought vaccines from the US, the UK alongside China, Russia and of late Canada.

Health officials said Bangladesh currently has a stock of one million doses of AstraZeneca's Covishield vaccine and Chinese Sinopharm jabs and is expecting 100,000 Pfizer shots but they feared all would be exhausted within few days.

After its request to the US, Bangladesh has urged the UK to provide 1.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to meet its emergency needs.

'I'm not asking for too much, I'm only asking for 1.6 million AstraZeneca doses that they have . . . (UK) they should immediately disburse those to Bangladesh so that people can have their second dose,' Momen told the ITV News.

Bangladesh earlier entered into a deal with India's Serum Institute (SII) to procure 30 million doses of vaccines. But it received seven million doses in two consignments until February while the third consignment, which was expected in March, is yet to reach the country. India had provided 3.2 million doses as gifts to Bangladesh.

'India is facing a very critical situation, very alarming… They're finding it difficult, we can understand it,' Momen told the British TV channel.

In his interview with CNN, Momen said the big problem is that a large number of people in Bangladesh who took the first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca could not take the second dose and so 'we need it desperately'.

Bangladesh also contacted China and Russia to get their vaccines while Beijing said it was set to provide six lakh more COVID-19 vaccine doses as second batch of gift nine days after sending first batch of five lakh doses as the donation.

Dhaka earlier this week signed a non-disclosure agreement with China on purchasing Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine and co-produce the vaccines in Bangladesh, a month after reaching a nearly identical deal with Russia for the production of Sputnik V vaccine.

The coronavirus has so far claimed 12,348 lives in Bangladesh with 38 deaths in the past 24 hours while the tally of infections surged to 7,87,726, with health officials reporting 1,028 new cases. PTI AR PMS AKJ PMS