Govt signs deal with Sinopharm, Incepta
In a major stride towards producing Covid-19 vaccine in the country, the government has struck a trilateral agreement for bottling, labelling and dispensing China's Sinopharm vaccine.
Under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the government, China's Sinopharm and Bangladesh's Incepta Vaccines Ltd yesterday, the local vaccine producer will supply five million doses of Covid vaccine a month from its plant in Savar.
Though none of the parties disclosed the total number of jabs to be supplied by the local firm, Maj Gen Mahbubur Rahman, director general of the drug administration, told The Daily Star that six crore jabs will be bottled and labelled under the agreement.
Contacted, Prof ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the health directorate, said these jabs are in addition to the six crore doses that the government is going to buy from Sinopharm.
Earlier at the signing ceremony at Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons, Prof Khurshid said the government will get the vaccine doses at a cheaper rate under the agreement.
He, however, didn't disclose the price.
The agreement was signed by Health Minister Zahid Maleque; Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen; Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh Li Jiming; and Chairman of Incepta Vaccines Ltd and Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd Abdul Muktadir.
Muktadir said that "due to some technical reasons", it was not possible to say exactly when they will be able to start supplying vaccine jabs.
In reply to a query, the health minister told journalists, "It will take around three months."
Earlier at the event, Zahid said, "Bangladesh has so far received 3.1 crore Covid vaccine jabs. Two crore of those have already been administered and the rest are in stock.
"We have contracts with different countries and we will continue to receive vaccines."
Replying to a question, he said the price of the jabs to be supplied by the local firm is yet to be fixed.
The Chinese ambassador said, "Both sides have worked very hard towards the same goal, and both governments have given necessary support to this end."
Vaccines are of vital importance in the battle against Covid-19, he noted.
"The immunization gap remains a prominent challenge to the world and deserves high attention from the international community."
At the bilateral level, China is one of the most reliable partners of Bangladesh in vaccine cooperation, mentioned Li Jiming.
"China has provided 2.1 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine as gift to Bangladesh, 3.4 million doses under the Covax facility, and eight million doses as part of an arrangement of a large-scale commercial purchase."
The vaccine-producing countries should also support the developing countries, including Bangladesh, through joint production and safeguard the global supply chain of raw materials, he observed.
The vaccine cooperation between Beijing and Dhaka has become a role model in this region.
"From it, we can see that vaccine cooperation requires greater solidarity and sense of responsibility, and full mobilisation of governments, businesses and international organisations, so as to form synergy," added the ambassador.
Liu Jingzhen, chairman of Sinopharm; and Ji Rong, counsellor on Asia affairs at the Chinese foreign ministry, spoke as special guests from Beijing through video conferencing.