Wednesday, September 22

What is the status of Russian vaccine purchase?

The Foreign Ministry has rejected the vaccine import proposal of Gonoshasthaya Kendra due to inconsistencies

Bangladesh may face another setback in procuring Sputnik V vaccine from Russia under the government-to-government arrangement due to the recent Covid surge in Russia, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“The government has decided, in principle, to procure vaccines from Russia. But the process is slightly delayed due to Covid resurgence in Russia,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday.

The government sent a proposal to the Russian government to purchase 10 million Sputnik V vaccines around a month ago. However, Russia did not send any reply in this regard.

The minister said: “Due to the recent Covid surge, maximum offices are under shutdown in Russia. Therefore, we did not get any feedback from the Russian government. But they are willing to sell vaccines to us, according to the last discussion.”

The Foreign Ministry also rejected the proposal sent by the Gonoshasthaya Kendra to import the vaccine from Russia. A concerned committee of the ministry vetoed the proposal citing many inconsistencies.

“The proposal for importing vaccines from Russia at a very low price by the Gonoshasthaya Kendra did not get approval of the concerned committee of the Foreign Ministry,” Dr Momen said.

Bangladesh has signed an agreement on the purchase of vaccines and co-production from Russia in May.

Following this, the two sides first discussed the issue of buying vaccines on May 28. The two countries agreed that Bangladesh would send a purchase proposal to the Russian government.

Following the decision, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) prepared a purchase proposal that was sent by the Health Ministry to the Russian government at the end of June.

“We have sent a proposal to the Russian government around a month ago, but yet to receive any feedback directly or through the Foreign Ministry,” said Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of DGHS.

Controversy over Gonoshasthaya Kendra proposal

Although the Foreign Ministry already decided to reject the vaccine import proposal, the Gonoshasthaya Kendra authorities, who are willing to import 20 million Sputnik V vaccines, have yet to receive the information.

On July 19, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told the media that no private agency had been appointed in Bangladesh regarding Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine, but mentioned that Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GSK) Founder and Trustee Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury met him.

“He [Zafrullah Chowdhury] was saying he would bring vaccine doses from Russia within seven days. The price will be half of what we would pay to purchase,” he said.

However, the foreign minister said the Bangladesh ambassador in Moscow informed him that the Russian government had appointed no private agent.

“Later, we heard that the person who got the agency is an American. He [Zafrullah] will bring [the vaccines] from him,” said Dr Momen.

A week later, Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder and Trustee Zafrullah Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune that a private organization called Gamma-Medic in Russia was dealing with Gonoshasthaya Kendra to export Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine shots to Bangladesh.

“Russian government does not directly deal with vaccine exports. The Russian government appoints the private organization, and that private organization appointed Gonoshasthaya Kendra as their sole distributor in Bangladesh for importing Covid-19 vaccine doses,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Tribune: “Russia did not appoint any company so far mentioned in the proposal by Gonoshasthaya Kendra. We have found many inconvenient dealings done by the US based company mentioned by Zafrullah Chowdhury. So we cannot rely on them.”

Foreign Minister AK Momen said: “We have enough vaccine reserve now and we continue our discussion over all of the sources regularly, as we do not want to face scarcity in the future.

“We have planned to vaccinate 10 million people each week, so that we cover 50% of our population within two months,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

On the other hand, Zafrullah Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday that they still did not get any feedback from the government about inconsistencies over the proposal.

According to Gonoshasthaya Kendra, the Russian company appointed them to import 20 million vaccines from Russia at $8 each.

“We are still confident that we can bring the vaccine within seven days if the government allows us,” Zafrullah Chowdhury said.

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