The Indian High Commission in Dhaka has said Bangladesh will be among the first to get vaccine doses from India as the neighbouring country restarts exports in October.
“Supplies should start in reasonable quantities soon, with priority partners like Bangladesh being among the earliest recipients. These will be among the first vaccine exports from India since April 2021,” the high commission said in a message on Monday after reporters sought comments on the issue, reports bdnews24.com.
Citing Indian Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, the high commission said the country decided to resume exports of vaccine “in the context of the current inoculation totals achieved in India's current vaccination drive and the scaling-up of production in the country”.
“India will help other countries and also fulfill its responsibility towards COVAX. In saying this, he specified that ‘Neighbouring (countries will be) first’.”
India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines, stopped exports of COVID shots in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
The country's monthly vaccine output has since more than doubled and is set to quadruple to over 300 million doses next month, Mandaviya said, adding that only excess supplies would be exported.
Total production could top 1 billion in the last three months of the year as new vaccines from companies such as Biological E are likely to be approved, he said.
Bangladesh signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India for 30 million doses of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine.
After India halted exports due to its own crisis, Bangladesh stopped administering the first doses to save second shots for the people who have had the first dose. It is yet to receive 23 million doses under the deal with the Serum Institute.
But Bangladesh was already short of enough doses to fully vaccinate all the citizens who have received the first dose.
More than 1.5 million people missed the second dose on expected dates. They were fully vaccinated after AstraZeneca vaccines arrived from Japan under global sharing platform COVAX.
The inoculation drive in Bangladesh resumed after the government received consignments of Sinopharm vaccine from China, and Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines under COVAX.
The announcement on resumption of exports in the October to December quarter comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Washington this week where vaccines are likely to be discussed at a summit of the leaders of the Quad countries - the United States, India, Japan and Australia.
India wants to vaccinate all its 944 million adults by December and has so far given at least one dose to 64 per cent of them and two doses to 22 per cent.