Hasina says Bangladesh is buying 10m COVID vaccine doses from different sources

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the government is buying 10 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from various sources as it is working to tackle a second wave of infections.

In a recorded televised address to the nation on Thursday, the eve of Eid-ul-Fitr, she said all the citizens will be vaccinated.

“We’ve made arrangements to buy 10 million doses from various sources. The vaccines will begin to arrive soon,” the prime minister said.

Bangladesh signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India for 30 million doses of the University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine last year amid the first wave.

It launched the mass vaccination drive on Feb 7 this year, but halted giving people first doses due to a supply crunch. India suspended export after Serum had sent seven million doses.

India had also sent 3.2 million doses as gift before the coronavirus began ravaging through the country in an ongoing second wave of infections.   

This prompted the Hasina administration to launch efforts to get vaccines from other sources, such as China and Russia.

China has sent 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine as gift, but the country’s Ambassador Li Jiming said it will take time to begin commercial supply.

Hasina said discussions with vaccine producers in Russia and China were ongoing after the export suspension by India hampered the immunisation drive.

She said Bangladesh asked the US for AstraZeneca doses. It is also waiting for vaccine supply under the COVAX programme co-led by the World Health Organization.

The cabinet has approved a proposal clearing the path for Bangladeshi companies to produce Russia or China’s vaccines locally, if the countries agree.

The prime minister said it would take time to begin producing vaccines in Bangladesh.

In her address, she said the government set up COVID-19 treatment facilities, increased hospital’s capacities and recruited thousands of health workers, including doctors and nurses, to tackle the pandemic.

Greeting all on the occasion of Eid, she urged them not to let their guard down during the celebrations.

The prime minister alerted the people to the risk of spreading the coronavirus through asymptomatic cases while travelling home despite a lockdown.