Bangladesh urgently seeks 1.6 million AstraZeneca doses from UK
After its request to the United States, Bangladesh has urged the United Kingdom to provide Covid-19 vaccine doses to meet its emergency needs as immunization programme is disrupted in Bangladesh.
"I'm not asking for too much, I'm only asking for 1.6m AstraZeneca doses that they have... they should immediately disburse those to Bangladesh so that people can have their second dose," Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said in an interview yesterday with ITV News.
Dr Momen said his message to the UK government is that they should be more sincere. "They should help their Commonwealth member states."
He said Bangladesh is a good friend of the UK and so many Bangladeshis contribute to the UK economy. "… so the UK should come forward."
Speaking to ITV News, Dr Momen described the vaccine situation in Bangladesh as a "crisis" and said, "We're desperate."
Bangladesh entered into a deal with Serum Institute of India (SII) to purchase 30 million doses of a potential vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca for Covid-19.
Bangladesh was supposed to get five million doses of the vaccine per month as the SII and Bangladesh's Beximco Pharma signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for priority delivery of the vaccine doses.
Bangladesh has so far received only 7 million Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine doses produced by SII through its contract. Bangladesh also received 3.3 million doses of the vaccine as a bilateral partnership gift.
"India is facing a very critical situation, very alarming… They're finding it difficult, we can understand it," Dr Momen said. "So, they're failing to distribute the vaccine they promised to send us."
He told ITV News that the Bangladesh government has appealed directly to the UK government for these required doses, but the request was ultimately rejected on the grounds that the UK government did not have the capacity.
"We have a belief that if the [UK] government tries, it can do it because they have the capacity," the Bangladesh Foreign Minister said.
Although Covid-19 cases reported daily in Bangladesh are relatively low and, according to the Foreign Minister, measures were in place to prevent the spread of the Indian variant in Bangladesh, the identification of six cases in the country earlier this month has concerned some experts.
On Friday, the Foreign Minister reached out to global media to let the world know that Bangladesh is desperately looking for vaccines and is ready to accept any shipment from any country, including the United States.
"We need it desperately. If any shipment comes, we'll take it right away," he told CNN in a live interview.
Dr Momen said the big problem is that a large number of people in Bangladesh who took the first dose of Oxford-AstraZeneca could not get the second dose. "Because we don't have any more. We can't give them the second dose. That's creating a lot of problems for us," said the Foreign Minister.
He said the government of Bangladesh is trying to get vaccines from other places and they were delighted when Bangladesh heard that the US will be distributing some of the AstraZeneca vaccines that they have.
Dr Momen said he had requested the US government and sent a letter to his counterpart, US Secretary of State. "They agreed to give us by and large."
Now the problem is, he said, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking a long time to approve the export of AstraZeneca.
Dr Momen said they are thankful to US President Joe Biden for announcing that USA will be distributing some of the AstraZeneca vaccine -- around 80 million -- to developing countries. "This is good news for us."