Will Bangladesh be amongst the victims of Indian vaccine nationalism?

Netra News
Netra News

Jan 4 · 2021
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Vials of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus disease vaccine are removed from a visual inspection machine inside a lab at Serum Institute of India, Pune, India, November 30, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

On Sunday, Indian media reported that Adar Poonawalla, the head of Serum Institute of India, had said that the Indian Government will not allow the export of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for several months.

“We can only give (the vaccines) to the government of India at the moment,” he stated.

This would seem to include Bangladesh which is one of the countries with a bilateral arrangement with the institute, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world. The agreement concerns the provision of 30 million doses of the vaccine to Bangladesh — 5 million per month for six months.

The apparent export ban would also include the arrangements that SII has with Covax — set up by the World Health Organisation, the vaccines alliance GAVI and CEPI, a global coalition to fight epidemics — to produce hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine for other developing countries.

However Beximxo, the company chosen to act as the vaccine distributor, and the government are currently seeking to argue that this ban would have no impact on the arrangements with Bangladesh.

Rabbur Reza, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Beximco Pharma, told The Daily Star.

“It is our understanding that the statement was generalised. We believe we are on the priority list and we will get vaccine on time. …

“We are in touch with [SII]. Our contact (in SII) said they are yet to receive any directive either from the government or from the top management of the SII.”

He added that Bangladesh is on the priority list as a “close neighbour”.

A senior Beximco Group official, also told The Business Standard that:

“Bangladesh is likely to get an exemption from the ban, as per understanding among the parties involved ….If Bangladesh drug regulatory body grants registration to the vaccine, Bangladesh can ask India for an exemption from the ban.”

Bangladesh’s Health Secretary Abdul Mannan also said that the decision will not impact upon SII’s vaccine purchase contract with Dhaka.

“The agreement Bangladesh had regarding coronavirus vaccine acquisition is a G2G (Government to Government) deal and the ban Indian government has imposed is on commercial export.”

This all seems more like hope than expectation. Bangladesh putting up a good front to disappointing news.

This is a developing story, but it does look at present as though there will at least be some delay before Bangladesh starts getting the vaccine doses — or at least the levels of doses provided by SII each month will be less than originally agreed.

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