Bangladesh buying Sinopharm COVID vaccine from China on an emergency basis

The health ministry is going to buy COVID-19 vaccine from Chinese state company Sinopharm on an emergency basis to tackle a supply crunch due to an export ban by India.

Published : 19 May 2021, 01:38 PM
Updated : 19 May 2021, 03:30 PM

The Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase on Wednesday approved in principle a proposal to buy the doses.

The Directorate General of Drug Administration or DGDA approved the vaccine for emergency use on Apr 29.

China has sent 500,000 doses of the vaccine as gift and the government is expected to begin administering the shots next week.

The vaccine, one of two main Chinese coronavirus vaccines that have been given to hundreds of millions of people in China and elsewhere, is the first developed by a non-Western country to win the backing of the World Health Organization.

Chinese Ambassador Li Jiming, however, said Bangladesh “better not expect” commercial supply of the vaccine before December because “the queue is too long”.

Cylinders ready to ship at Islam Oxygen factory in Naraynganj's Rupganj. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Shahida Akter, an additional secretary at the Cabinet Division, said the proposal presented in Wednesday’s meeting did not mention the delivery time, price and volume of the vaccine to be bought from China.

The committee also approved a proposal to buy 40 oxygen generators under a direct purchase deal.

A reporter asked why the government prefers direct purchase, a process questionable for corruption and overvaluation, instead of placing orders in advance to tackle the pandemic.

“It was the health ministry’s job to take timely and proper steps. We’ve approved it in principle considering that the pandemic is a new experience for the entire world,” said Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.

The demand for oxygen in Bangladesh has increased due to the outbreak of the respiratory illness. As much as 20 percent of the oxygen had been imported from India.

Besides halting export of vaccine, India has also suspended medical oxygen supply to other countries to tackle its own crisis amid a devastating second wave of infections.

Bangladesh has also experienced a rapid rise in coronavirus cases and experts fear a third wave may hit with the coronavirus spreading during recent Eid-ul-Fitr holiday travels.