Bangladesh on Wednesday received 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine as a gift to continue its vaccination drive, which was halted due to shortage of India-made Astrazeneca jabs.
Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming handed over the vaccines to Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and Health Minister Zahid Maleque at State Guest House Padma, hours after a Bangladesh aircraft landed in Dhaka carrying the vaccines from China.
Momen said that Bangladesh seeks to procure 40 to 50 million doses of the Chinese vaccine on a commercial basis.
He proposed co-production arrangement of the Chinese vaccine in Bangladesh, saying it could create a “win-win” situation for both the countries.
“We have the capacity to produce the vaccine and we can do it with their (Chinese) help . . . if they agree we can go for co-production,” he said.
Maleque said that his office has sent a letter of interest to China to buy the vaccine on a commercial basis.
Chinese envoy Li said the gift was the manifestation of China-Bangladesh anti-pandemic cooperation, which again shows that “our people are in the same boat and we will stand with each other till the end of this battle”.
The development came after the World Health Organization (WHO) listed the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use, giving green light for this vaccine to be rolled out globally.
According to Momen, Bangladesh was initially reluctant to receive the Chinese vaccine until it got the WHO nod but the second wave of the pandemic forced the country’s health authorities earlier this month to approve the Chinese jabs alongside Russia’s Sputnik vaccine.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said they would start the process of administering the Sinopharm vaccine among those who got registered for the first dose.
Bangladesh launched the nationwide vaccination campaign on February 7 with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India.
India provided 3.2 million doses of the vaccine to Bangladesh as a gift.
However, the registration for the vaccination was halted on May 5 in view of shortage of the vaccine.
Bangladesh purchased 30 million doses of the vaccine and under an agreement received seven million doses in two consignments until February, while the third consignment, which was expected in March, is yet to arrive, forcing the country to look for other alternatives to vaccinate its population.
The Chinese vaccines arrived in the country as the ties between the two countries apparently witnessed a sudden strain with China warning Bangladesh against joining the Quad alliance, saying that Dhaka”s participation in the anti-Beijing “club” would result in “substantial damage” to bilateral relations.
The Chinese envoy made the remarks which immediately drew a sharp response from Bangladesh’s foreign minister who called it “very unfortunate” and “aggressive”, adding that he never heard such comments from any Chinese diplomat before.
Initiated in 2007, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Quad for short, is an informal grouping of the US, India, Australia and Japan.