Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm has offered 60 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh when there has been a surge in daily infection rates and deaths for days, said officials.
With Serum Institute of India failing to comply with the commitment to supply three crore vaccine shots in six installments, the Bangladesh government started to explore alternative sources for the jabs in a desperate attempt to continue the inoculation against the Covid-19, they said.
As part of that effort, the Chinese drugmaker Sinopharm through a medium has recently offered Bangladesh to give the 60 lakh doses, the officials added.
Contacted, Health Minister Zahid Maleque told The Daily Star that the Chinese Sinopharm, through its trustee sources, offered 60 lakh doses of its Covid-19 vaccine called BBIBP-CorV.
"We are giving importance to this issue. The negotiation is going on. We wanted to know about the price of the vaccine, when they will be able to deliver it and how many they will deliver," the minister said.
He also said once Sinopharm gives those information, then they can move ahead about purchasing the Chinese vaccine.
In early 2020, the Beijing Institute of Biological Products created an inactivated coronavirus vaccine called BBIBP-CorV. China, UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan and some other countries across the world are using this vaccine. The World Health Organization is yet to give the approval of the vaccine. But the WHO advisory panel said Sinopharm has presented data on their Covid-19 vaccines indicating levels of efficacy.
On December 30 last year, Sinopharm announced that the vaccine has an efficacy of 79.34 percent, which led the Chinese government to approve it. However, the United Arab Emirates, which approved a Sinopharm vaccine earlier that month, said the vaccine was 86 percent effective, based on interim results of its phase-three trial.
Apart from this, the Bangladesh government is also communicating for Russian vaccine Sputnik V.
Asked about whether there is any update about Russian Sputnik V vaccine, the minister said, "Bangladesh ambassador in Russia is in talks with the Russian authorities. It is also in progress."
Russia approved the Sputnik V vaccine for domestic use in August 2020.
The government has signed an agreement of purchasing three crore doses of vaccines from Serum Institute of India through its local agent Beximco. As per the agreement, the government was supposed to get 50 lakh doses of vaccines each month. But till yesterday, the government has only received 70 lakh doses of vaccines in two installments.
In the meantime, New Delhi reportedly imposed a temporary restriction on all major exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by SII to meet demands at home, reported global media.
Contacted, Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco, said Serum informed them that they were ready to export, but were yet to get government clearance.
Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, director general of Directorate General of Health Services, said they were trying desperately to get the same Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from alternative sources to keep the ongoing vaccination campaign smooth.