China-Bangladesh Covid vaccine co-production deal a game-changer in combating pandemic

On August 16, Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm signed a deal with Bangladesh for the co-production of Covid-19 inactivated vaccines, marking a landmark moment in vaccine collaboration in South Asia

Sumit Barua Aug 27, 2021
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China-Bangladesh Covid vaccine co-production deal

Bangladesh, a rising star among the least developed countries in terms of economic growth, was jolted by the coronavirus pandemic, like many other nations in various parts of the world.

According to the Directorate of Health Service Bangladesh, the total number of Covid-19 cases has gone up to about 1.5 million, with the death toll touching 25,729 on August 26, 2021.

Though the country's immunization drive began on January 28, with Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines sent by Serum Institute of India, the vaccination efforts suffered a setback when the company failed to keep its commitment to supplying the doses after neighboring India was jolted by a searing second wave of the virus.

Bangladesh, which was named a WHO "Vaccine Hero" for mass immunization in 2019, has set a goal of vaccinating 80 percent of its population (about 140 million people) under the global health agency’s guidelines to control the Covid pandemic.

However, after the Indian company, the Serum Insitute of India, faltered, the vaccination process got delayed as only a few countries were manufacturing the jabs, and the available shots were far less than the global demand.

China extends help 

In such a situation came the friendly people of China. The goodwill mission began on May 12, 2021, with the Chinese government donating 5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Bangladesh. Besides the gift, Bangladesh signed an agreement for the commercial purchase of 15 million doses. Later, 60 million more vaccines were ordered from the Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm.

So far, Sinopharm has supplied over 13 million vaccines including both commercial supplies and gifts. Another 60 million doses are on the way.

On August 16, Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm signed a deal with Bangladesh for the co-production of Covid-19 inactivated vaccines, marking a landmark moment in vaccine collaboration in South Asia. Sinopharm and Bangladesh's pharmaceutical producer Incepta expect to produce 5 million doses per month through a joint venture.

"A friend in need is a friend indeed", Bangladesh's ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman said while hailing the co-production agreement, which is likely to minimize cost and make available a huge number of doses. This represents another watershed moment in Bangladesh-China relations.

China-South Asia platform

With an eye to the South Asian countries’ need for greater regional co-operation for meeting the Covid challenge, China has initiated a platform christened "China-South Asia Platform for Covid-19 consultation, Co-Operation and Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery “.

Bangladesh has joined the forum for achieving the common goal of improving capacities for coping with large-scale public health crises and exploring vaccine cooperation while opposing any form of "vaccine nationalism."

The Bangladesh government has expressed its gratitude to China for its prompt help in enabling the nation to combat the coronavirus.

The success of Sino-Bangladesh ties lies in a mutual partnership, Together, the two countries will win over the pandemic.

(The writer, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is a researcher-writer with interest in bilateral issues between China and Bangladesh. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at subratabarua999999@gmail.com)

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