Bangladesh government has sought immediate delivery of four million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from the United States to continue its ongoing vaccination drive.
The US will share up to 60 million doses of its Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine with other countries as the country has a surplus of the drug in their stock, the White House sources said.The doses are expected to be exported in the coming months after a federal safety review.
After a meeting with US Ambassador in Dhaka Earl Miller at his office on Thursday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told reporters that in a letter to the US government, Bangladesh has sought immediate release of four million doses of vaccine.
Momen also told reporters that he, however, sought a total of 10 to 20 million doses of vaccine from the country.
Diplomatic sources said the US has a stockpile of the AstraZeneca vaccine even though its regulators have not yet authorised it for public use.
Critics have accused the government of hoarding the vaccine, while other countries are in desperate need.
Foreign Minister Momen said the government wants to continue the vaccination programme arranging vaccines from alternative sources.Momen said he wanted to know from Ambassador Miller whether they provided any vaccine to India. In reply, the US envoy informed that they have not yet provided any vaccine to India.
The Foreign Minister said the US government needs permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to export vaccines which is a time-consuming process. “But we need it immediately.”
He said the US Mission in Dhaka is working sincerely to support Bangladesh to provide the doses from their stockpile. “Give us vaccines as soon as possible. It’s our top most priority,” The Foreign Minister told the US Ambassador.
Bangladesh was due to receive over one crore shots of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine by May, under the global arrangement called COVAX, but it is now completely uncertain due to global shortage of supply.
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Vaccine Alliance (GAVI) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as co-leads of the COVAX initiative for equitable global access to Covid-19 vaccines, alongside key delivery partner UNICEF, have published COVAX's first round of allocations. Another official source said Bangladesh is also due to get a total of 68 million doses of vaccines from a WHO-backed alliance, with the first shipment of around 10 million doses expected by June.
China will provide five lakhs of vaccine doses as gift to Bangladesh, which is expected to arrive in Dhaka by May 12.