Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said the government has sought immediate delivery of 4 million vaccine doses from the United States (US).
The US will share up to 60 million doses of its Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with other countries as they become available.
“We’ve sought immediate release of four million doses of vaccine (in a letter sent to the US),” he told reporters, adding that he, however, sought a total of 10 to 20 million doses of vaccine from the US.
Dr Momen said the government wants to continue the vaccination programme collecting vaccines from alternative sources.
The Foreign Minister made the remarks after his meeting with US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller at his office.
He asked the US Ambassador whether they provided any vaccine to India. In reply, Ambassador Miller said they have provided no vaccine to India yet.
The Foreign Minister said the US government needs permission from the Food and Drug Administration to export vaccines which is a time-consuming process. “But we need it immediately.”
On Wednesday, Dr Momen said the Indian diaspora is strongly lobbying with the US government so that the US sends a whole lot of vaccine doses to India. “They’re very powerful. One lady is taking the lead.”
He also requested the Bangladeshi diaspora to approach the US government so that they feel the urgency with communication from all sides.
“Our work is to collect vaccines,” the Foreign Minister said, adding that there is a much progress over discussion with China and Russia.
The US Mission in Dhaka is working sincerely to help Bangladesh provide vaccine doses, Dr Momen said.
“Give us vaccine [doses] as soon as possible. It’s our priority,” he told the US Ambassador.
Earlier, the United States assured of making Covid-19 vaccine doses available for other countries, including in Bangladesh, once they have surplus reaching the level of mass vaccination in the US.
“I can assure you when we can reach the level of the critical mass vaccination and we’ve surplus, we’ll absolutely make vaccines available in whatever different ways,” said John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate told reporters during his recent visit to Bangladesh.
“We’re expecting it (vaccines) much,” Dr Momen told reporters, adding that Bangladesh Ambassador to the US M Shahidul Islam is in touch with the relevant officials at the US government.
The Foreign Minister reiterated that the Chinese government is working to start delivering 5 lakh doses of vaccine as a gift before Eid al-Fitr as two dates are mentioned – May 10 or 12.
He said Chinese Ambassador in Dhaka Li Jiming recently informed them that vaccines will arrive here on May 12 while the Health Minister Zahid Maleque shared a more specific date – May 10.
The Foreign Minister said they are naturally worried about new variants and is focusing on vaccine collection immediately.
Earlier, the Foreign Minister said the government is not shifting its attention from India as there is an agreement with Serum Institute of India to get 3 crore doses of vaccine.
He said India is yet to reply as Bangladesh sought at least 30 lakh vaccine doses under the agreement to address the immediate demand in Bangladesh. “We’ll procure vaccines wherever we get it.”
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday reaffirmed that the government will procure vaccines at any cost to protect people from coronavirus. “We’re bringing more vaccines, no matter how much money is required; we’ll bring more vaccines.”
Bangladesh has received 7 million of Oxford-AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine doses produced by Serum Institute of India (SII) vaccines through its contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift. This is the largest amount sent from India to any country.
The Foreign Minister said Russia is very interested to give its vaccine to Bangladesh and sent documents to have a government-to-government agreement.
“They shared their issues. Our Health Ministry will share their points,” Dr Momen said he had a conversation with Health Minister Zahid Maleque, especially wanting to know what will be the penalty if they fail to deliver the vaccine timely after signing an agreement.