Dhaka working on normalizing things with Beijing after Sinopharm vaccine price disclosure

File photo of the Covid-19 vaccine made by the Beijing Institute of Biological Products, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), taken on April 15, 2021 Reuters

A Cabinet Division official recently told reporters that the government will purchase every dose of the vaccine at $10

The government is putting in its best efforts through diplomatic channels to “make things normal” and procure 15 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China as planned though the scenario looks “different” to some extent following price disclosure, officials said.

“The scenario looks different to some extent after the incident. We are doing our best to make things normal,” a senior government official told UNB. 

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen had a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, and discussed the issue, among other things, explaining the whole scenario. 

“Our ambassador in Beijing is trying desperately with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He remains engaged,” another official told UNB, mentioning that the price disclosure has given a lot of “inconvenience” to the Chinese company. 

Revealing the contract price of the vaccine doses is against the “confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement” and the price for Bangladesh by Sinopharm is among the lowest in all countries, a diplomatic source said adding that the price also depends on who is procuring when. 

Bangladesh has also written to relevant parties in China mentioning that it was an “unintentional” mistake to reveal the price of vaccine per dose.

On May 27, the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase approved a proposal for buying 15 million doses of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine. 

Right after the meeting, a Cabinet Division official told reporters at a briefing that they would purchase the vaccine at $10 per dose. 

Also Read – Momen: Bangladesh will buy 15 million doses of Covid vaccine from China

It is not clear yet whether the government would be able to buy the vaccine doses at this price in the future. 

A consignment of 20 million of China’s Sinopharm vaccines is expected to arrive in Sri Lanka this month and is reported that Sri Lanka has purchased one dose of the vaccines at $15, according to the Daily Mirror. 

Before the price disclosure, Bangladesh was assured by the Chinese government that they would keep 15 million vaccine doses for Bangladesh. 

On the other hand, India is currently focusing on its own vaccination program instead of export considering its domestic situation. 

“I think you’d appreciate that against this background it wouldn’t be right to talk about the supply of vaccines abroad just now. As we’ve repeatedly conveyed, we’re currently proposing domestic vaccine production for our own vaccination program,” said Arindam Bagchi, official spokesperson at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

He said the government of India has been making all efforts to augment the availability of vaccines in India, whether through enhanced production in the country, or supply from abroad. 

More options

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said 68 million doses of coronavirus vaccine will be available from the Covax facility under the World Health Organization for 20% of our population, that is, for 34 million people. 

Out of this, 106,000 doses have already been received. 

Apart from India, there are plans to buy vaccines from the governments of China and Russia, Pfizer Co from the US, and Sanofi/GSK from France/Belgium.

Negotiations are underway on procuring the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia, and, if necessary, manufacturing the same in Bangladesh. 

The World Bank provided $500 million for procuring Covid-19 vaccines and $14.87 million for logistics support. 

Also Read – Half a million doses of Sinopharm vaccine reach Dhaka

A loan agreement for $940 million with the Asian Development Bank to procure the Covid-19 vaccine is at the final stage.

Alongside, there is a good possibility to receive support for vaccine procurement from the European Investment Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. 

Plans have been worked out to vaccinate 80% of the people in phases, and people with risks will be vaccinated in the first phase. 

The first dose of vaccination began on February 7 while that of the second dose began on April 8.

The registration for vaccination and distribution of vaccine certificates and vaccine cards are being done digitally through the surokkha.gov.bd web portal using National ID cards. 

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide has expressed his country’s intention to provide around 30 million doses of vaccines manufactured in Japan to other countries and regions, including through the Covax Facility. 

He said Japan will provide the vaccine doses when circumstances allow and at an appropriate time. 

As one of the largest contributors to the Covax facility, Japan welcomed the arrival of 106,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh on May 31, which was made possible through the Covax AMC.

Japan said it will continue to cooperate with Bangladesh to suppress the spread of the Covid-19 and overcome this unprecedented crisis, said the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka. 

Share vaccines 

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has renewed his call for countries to share vaccines, particularly with those that are struggling to cope with new surges and variants. 

He also renewed his call to the international community to come together to address the unprecedented challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Also Read – Bangladesh on the list as US unveils strategy for global vaccine sharing under Covax

“There’s an urgent need for increased global solidarity to ensure that vaccines are available to everyone, everywhere,” said his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric. 

Equitable access to vaccines is a prerequisite to ending the pandemic and kick-starting a strong recovery, he said.

The UN welcomed the announcement made by the Biden administration that it will be sharing millions of vaccine doses with both the Covax facility as well as bilaterally with countries in particular need. 

The US has announced its framework for sharing at least 80 million US vaccine doses globally by the end of June and the plan for the first 25 million doses.

Approximately seven million doses will be shared in Asia covering countries and entities, including Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, and the Pacific Islands, according to the White House.

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