Bangladesh will temporarily suspend fresh rounds of vaccination using the first dose of the Covishield vaccine that it had received from the Serum Institute of India. The move comes after weeks of uncertainty about continued supply of the vaccine following the devastating second wave in India.
Director General ABM Khurshed Alam of the Directorate General of Health Services of Bangladesh said on Sunday in an official circular the move will nevertheless allow it to complete the process for those who have already received the first dose. Bangladesh has been waiting for 2 million Covishield doses but has not received it despite repeated reminders. Sunday’s announcement shows that Bangladesh is unable to begin fresh rounds.
Dhaka has been maintaining that it had paid for the 2 million doses but has not received the consignment. Welcoming External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to Dhaka, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen at a press conference on March 4 had said Bangladesh has ‘purchased’ the vaccine from the SII.
The inability of Bangladesh to begin fresh rounds has caused concern in view of the growing number of cases. Bangladesh witnessed 101 deaths during the weekend with casualty figure in the pandemic being around 11,000. The decision to pause fresh vaccination coincided with Dhaka’s order to stop all land movements with India for 14-days starting on Monday.
Confirming the ban on land movements, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said the decision was prompted by the reports of the deadly outbreak in India.
The shortage of Covishield vaccine comes exactly a year after India kickstarted its medical diplomacy mainly targeting the smaller South Asian neighbours like Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Last week, Mr. Momen announced that to deal with the shortfall of vaccines, Bangladesh will receive at least 6 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China as a ‘gift’. He also said Dhaka is in discussion with Moscow to co-produce Sputnik V for domestic use. “We will pay upfront for a part of the consignment of Sputnik vaccine and the rest of the consignment can be manufactured here under an agreement.”