The Bangladesh government has requested its Indian counterpart to expedite the delivery of about 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccines to ensure that the rollout of the immunisation programme in the neighbouring country isn’t affected, people familiar with developments said on Wednesday.
The matter was raised by the Bangladesh high commission in New Delhi and authorities in Dhaka over the past few days against the backdrop of concerns among Bangladeshi authorities about the delay in supply of doses that were contracted from Serum Institute of India (SII), the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
There was no official response from Indian officials on the matter. The Indian side said recently that exports of Covid-19 vaccines will be rolled out in a phased manner and delivery schedules will be calibrated in sync with domestic requirements.
However, concerns have grown in several countries that have signed commercial agreements with SII as India’s domestic vaccine needs have increased significantly following a massive spike in infections and the government’s plans to open up the vaccination drive to everyone above the age of 18 from May 1.
The people said the Bangladeshi side was solely dependent on vaccine supplies from India after it opted not to procure Chinese-made doses despite offers from Beijing. Any prolonged delay in the delivery of doses by SII could hit the rollout of the vaccination drive in Bangladesh, the people said.
Bangladeshi authorities are also looking at the possibility of acquiring the Sputnik V vaccine developed by Russia, the people added.
India has so far supplied 3.3 million doses of Covishield as grants to Bangladesh, while the country received another seven million doses as commercial supplies. The supplies began in January and the last delivery – 100,000 doses provided as a grant – was made on April 2.
Bangladesh signed a commercial contract with SII last year to buy 30 million doses, and under the terms of the deal, the country should receive five million doses a month between January and June.
The Nepal government too is awaiting the delivery of a million doses of Covishield contracted from SII. Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali had raised the delay in delivery of the doses during a phone conversation with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on April 9.
People familiar with developments in Kathmandu said there had been no word from the Indian side regarding the delivery of the shots.
Courtesy – Hindustan Times