It was anticipated that the COVID-19 vaccine made by Oxford-AstraZeneca would arrive in Bangladesh by January or February this year. The agreement with the Serum Institute of India, a vaccine manufacturer, fuelled this expectation. Announcement made by India which said the country would export vaccines after it meets its own demand created confusion and sense of uncertainty among people.
Different parties involved with the matter provided with contradictory information about the type of the agreement Bangladesh made with Indian manufacturer company to import vaccines. Bangladesh government and Beximco pharmaceuticals signed a tripartite agreement with Serum Institute in November last year. Beximco said the agreement was never signed between the governments of the two countries rather it was a trade agreement. But the secretary of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said, Bangladesh had a G2G (Government to Government) agreement with India regarding vaccine. In response to the question if the agreement was a G2G, the foreign minister said, “we do not know anything about it”.
One of the partners for importing vaccines, Beximco, has been saying one thing while the secretary of DGHS said complete opposite. On the other hand the foreign minister is still in dark about what is going on. What could be the possible explanation of the confusion? How come the persons sitting in the responsible position do not know anything about such an important agreement and its progress?
The Serum Institute has an agreement with Beximco and the Bangladesh government, but the position of the Indian government is important in terms of vaccine exports. If the Indian government has set a condition to meet the demand of the country, then it will have to be taken into consideration. Adar Poonawalla, chief executive of the Serum Institute, said they would meet India's demand in the next two months. It may be possible to export only after vaccinating 100 million doses in India. It caused uncertainty about the possible time of availability of vaccine in Bangladesh. In a recent tweet, Adar said that they were allowed to export vaccines to all countries. In other words, India has not imposed any ban on the export of vaccines.
The key point is, Bangladesh may get the vaccine late, even if there is no restriction on vaccine export by India, as the manufacturer company decided to meet their domestic demands first. The matter needs to be clarified. There is no explanation from the government in this regard, rather than big hopes. Health minister Zahid Maleque has said that even if India bans the export of COVID-19 vaccine, Bangladesh will get it in time as per the agreement. What is the logical basis of such optimism?
We believe that communication at the diplomatic level and clearing the matter is necessary for ensuring getting COVID-19 vaccines on time. If uncertainty and confusion continue in this regard, the opportunist quarters will get the chance to spread propaganda.
Following Beximco's request, the Directorate General of Drug Administration has granted emergency permission for the import and use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh. We believe that this vaccine must be approved by the World Health Organisation before it can be used on citizens. Since all of the vaccines that Bangladesh uses are approved by the World Health Organisation, it should not be an exception.