The government has sought immediate delivery of 4 million vaccine doses from the US, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said yesterday.
"We've sought immediate release of 4 million doses of vaccine," he told reporters after his meeting with US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl Miller at his foreign ministry office, reports UNB.
This was the latest government effort to collect vaccines from alternative sources as the stock of Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs is running out fast, making the ongoing countrywide vaccine inoculation uncertain.
Already, the government suspended administration of the first dose on April 26, immediately after the Indian government barred export of Covishield -- the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India.
The Bangladesh government had a stock of 1.02 crore doses of the Oxford vaccine. After 58,19,185 people received the first doses, there is a shortage of 14,39,708 doses for the second doses, according to the health directorate.
Momen said the government wants to continue the vaccination programme collecting vaccines from alternative sources.
He informed reporters that his ministry has sought a total of 10 to 20 million jabs of vaccine from the US.
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."
Momen also said they have written to Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar requesting for 3 million shots of vaccine to address Bangladesh's immediate need.
"They [India] have verbally said keep your fingers crossed," he said.
The US will share up to 60 million doses of its Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine with other countries as they become available.
In another development, Health Minister Zahid Maleque yesterday said five lakh doses of Sinopharm's vaccines from China will arrive in Dhaka on May 12.
He added that the government is "at the final stage of signing a deal" for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.
"We've already made a huge progress in discussions with Russia over procuring its vaccine … now we're at the stage of signing a deal in this regard," the minister said while addressing as the chief guest at a virtual discussion titled "Tackling the Second Wave of Covid-19 and Oxygen Crisis".
Bangladesh Private Medical College Association organised the event.
The minister said, "They [China] informed us that five lakh doses will arrive in Bangladesh on May 12. We've also sent a letter to them seeking more vaccine doses."
The Chinese government is now assessing the possibility of vaccine export to Bangladesh, he said.
He added that they are also trying to procure the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from other countries besides India, while the prime minister, health ministry, foreign ministry and other ministries concerned are making joint efforts to buy vaccines from other sources.
"So, we're making all-out efforts to collect the vaccine. Even, we're trying to have AstraZeneca's vaccine from other countries as it is being manufactured in different countries. So, every effort is there to bring vaccines. We hope our efforts will yield good results, and we may be able to give you good news over the vaccine very soon," he said.
The minister also said they will encourage the private sector if it tries to manufacture vaccines in Bangladesh. "If anyone can produce vaccines, we'll provide them all-out support, and it's my commitment."