Covid Shots: Govt hopes regular shipment
The arrival of 4.5 million Covid vaccine doses in the country on Friday night and early yesterday has relieved a serious strain on the government.
Of the 4.5 million jabs, the country received 2.5 million doses of Moderna vaccine from the US free of cost under the COVAX facility and another 2 million Sinopharm shots from China under a purchase deal.
Ministers said there will be no more shortage of vaccines in future, with the life-saving jabs expected to continue reaching home from abroad, both under COVAX and commercial deals.
"From now on, there will be no shortage of vaccines. We are getting vaccines from various countries. Our goal is to get 10 crore jabs by December. With that, five crore people will be vaccinated," Health Minister Zahid Maleque said.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, the health minister, and US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller spoke to reporters after receiving 1.3 million Moderna vaccine doses from the US at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport around midnight Friday.
Yesterday morning, another 1.2 million Moderna doses arrived from the US on Emirates flights.
The two ministers also received the first batch of 1 million Sinopharm jabs from China at 12:35am yesterday. Another one million Sinopharm doses arrived Dhaka in the morning. Biman Bangladesh flights carried home the vaccines from China.
Under a purchase deal with China, Bangladesh is supposed to receive 1.5 crore doses of Sinohparm vaccine in three months.
The health minister said Bangladesh is expecting to receive 7 crore Johnson & Johnson vaccine jabs in the first quarter of next year.
"The US is a very close friend of us. We are very happy for the vaccines we have got from the US. We express our gratitude to the US for donating 2.5 million vaccine doses for free. It is a great help for our people. We hope this type of help will continue."
Asked when the AstraZeneca vaccines would reach the country as 15 lakh people who had got AstraZeneca shots as their first dose have eagerly been waiting for the second shots, Zahid said Bangladesh was discussing import of vaccines with different countries.
He said some countries have hinted at providing AstraZeneca vaccine. "We have indications from India that they will start supplying AstraZeneca vaccine from August."
Earlier, Bangladesh suspended its nationwide vaccination campaign in April as India halted export of AstraZeneca vaccine after supplying 7 million doses of the contracted 30 million. India had gifted 3.3 million AstraZeneca jabs to Bangladesh.
Bangladesh resumed the vaccination campaign on a limited scale in late May after receiving gifts of 1.1 million Sinopharm vaccine jabs and 1.06 lakh Pfizer vaccine shots from China and the US.
The health minister said the government would soon begin the nationwide registration and vaccination.
Foreign Minister Momen thanked US President Joe Biden for the vaccines, saying the president had declared supplying 80 million vaccine shots to the developing countries and he kept his promise.
"There's nothing to be worried about. There will be a lot of Covid vaccines. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has kept [aside] adequate funds for purchasing vaccines."
He said there were indications that plenty of vaccines would be arriving.
"The most important thing is that the US help came at a most critical time. We are so proud of it. We will also get the ones that we are buying. So, the situation has been stabilised," Momen said.
He also thanked the Bangladeshi expatriates in the US for campaigning for the vaccine.
Ambassador Miller said the 2.5 million Moderna jabs are a gift from the American people to Bangladesh and its only objective is to save lives.
He said the vaccine donation was only the beginning.
"We will use the power of our democracy, the ingenuity of American scientists, the strength of American manufacturing, and, most importantly, the resilience, commitment and generosity of spirit of the American people to help the world beat this pandemic," the envoy said.
Miller said the United States has been Bangladesh's closest partner for five decades working to improve public health, and today, at this uniquely challenging moment in history, this partnership is more important than ever.
To date, the US government has contributed over $84 million to help Bangladesh combat the pandemic, he added.