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Russia offers to manufacture its vaccine in Bangladesh

Expert welcomes new proposal as suspension of vaccine shipment from India hits inoculation campaign hard

SM Najmus Sakib   | 20.04.2021
Russia offers to manufacture its vaccine in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh 

Russia on Tuesday proposed to manufacture its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Bangladesh as part of a co-production arrangement, said a top Bangladeshi official.

Moscow gave a proposal to manufacture its vaccine in Bangladesh, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told the country's state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS).

"We agreed with them on co-production ... though it's not finalized yet," he said.

Russia will provide the technology and Bangladeshi pharmaceutical companies will produce the Sputnik V vaccine in Bangladesh, the BSS report said, adding that "if things go well, it will be cheap and hopefully, it will be better."

"Now, we are keeping all options open to get vaccines," Momen said.

The World Bank, however, recently informed the country that it would receive 8 million doses through the WHO-led COVAX initiative by May.

Momen said the government was also considering engaging the private sector to import and sell commercially expensive vaccines, like the Pfizer-BioNTech, in the Bangladesh market, to meet demand.

The new proposal raises hopes among experts as the continuation of mass inoculation remains uncertain in the country as the shipment of Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the only existing source of COVID-19 vaccine, apparently got suspended.

Earlier, Bangladesh had signed a tripartite agreement with the SII to procure 30 million vaccines with 5 million doses per month from January to June 2021. But, the country only received 7 million doses as of April.

India, however, gave 3 million vaccines as a gift to Dhaka.

Prominent virologist Dr. Nazrul Islam said domestic vaccine production would help both availability and cost.

"It's a grave concern that the vaccine shipment from India has been in the apparent lock. And, even if SII can produce more vaccines, it will not be easy to get the rest jabs from India in time in line with the tripartite agreement, as demand for vaccine manifolds within India amid the surging infections," he told Anadolu Agency.

"We have long been asking the government for an alternative source for vaccines. However, the government is now trying to explore other sources," said Islam, who is also a member of the government's National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19.

About 5.7 million people in Bangladesh have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as of Tuesday. According to the Health Ministry, COVID-19 has killed at least 10,588 people and infected 727,780 others.

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