4.5m doses of vaccine arrive

Staff Correspondent

4 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Bangladesh has received 4.5 million more doses of Moderna and Sinopharm vaccines, in a boost to its inoculation drive amid a deadly spike in both deaths and infections from coronavirus.

Of them, 2.5 million doses of Moderna vaccine and 2 million shots of Sinopharm jab arrived in Dhaka in four shipments on Friday night and Saturday morning.

An Emirates Airlines flight carrying 1.25 million doses of Moderna vaccine landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around 11:15pm on Friday, said Maidul Islam, a spokesman for the health ministry.

A shipment of one million Sinopharm doses from China arrived around 12:45am on Saturday followed by two more flights at 5:30am and 8:45am, according to the airport authorities.

The Sinopharm shipment is part of 15 million doses Bangladesh has purchased from China while the Moderna vaccine arrived through international vaccination platform Covax.

Health Minister Zahid Maleque, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and senior officials went to the airport to receive the doses.

“Our mass vaccination drive stopped after a strong launch because we didn’t get expected doses. I hope we won’t face another supply crunch. We’re getting vaccines from other countries and this will continue,” the health minister said.

He expressed the hope that Bangladesh will get 100 million doses by December to inoculate 50 million people.

The Moderna vaccine, approved by Bangladesh on June 29, will be the fourth to be administered against the coronavirus in the country.

These 2.5 million vaccine doses are part of US government’s recent allocation of 25 million vaccine doses for countries in Asia, the US Embassy in Dhaka said. “This is a gift, at no cost, from the American people,” said Earl R Miller, US ambassador to Dhaka. “We share these vaccines with the singular objective of saving lives. Because it is the right thing to do. It is what Americans do in times of need. When we have the capacity, we have the will, and we step up and we deliver."

The ambassador said the US is the largest aid donor to Bangladesh’s Covid-19 response, contributing $84 billion to the country’s efforts to combat the pandemic.

Bangladesh will receive two million doses of the Chinese vaccine this month, the health minister said.

“We hope we’ll get even more next month – maybe around 3.5 to 4 million,” he said.

China had previously sent 500,000 doses of the vaccine to Bangladesh on May 12 and another 600,000 doses on June 13 as a gift.

But the latest shipment is part of Bangladesh’s agreement with China for purchasing shots.

Foreign Minister Momen said on May 25 that 15 million doses of the vaccine will be bought from China. On May 27, Bangladesh approved a proposal to buy the shots.

The arrival of these vaccines will allow Bangladesh to expand its vaccination drive once more after a break of over two months.

According to the Directorate General of Health Services, the Sinopharm vaccine has been administered at 40 centres across the country and the Pfizer vaccine at seven in the capital.

Bangladesh started its mass vaccination campaign in February, using the Covishield vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

But the programme was subsequently halted after Indian froze vaccine exports to tackle its own crisis of doses.

The inoculation drive later resumed after the country received consignments of Sinopharm and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.