Bangladesh received its first ever COVID-19 vaccine consignment today as India sent 20 million doses of inoculate as gift as part of their neighborhood plus policy.
A chartered Air India plane, carrying the jabs of Covishield, the coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca and manufactured by Serum Institute of India, landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 11:23 am.
Later, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram Kumar Doraiswami handed over the vaccines formally to foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and health minister Zahid Maleque at a ceremony at state guest house Padma here.
“The gift comes as per our commitment to our neighbouring country,” said Doraiswami at the ceremony.
The envoy said Bangladesh got the vaccine almost simultaneously with India. “The vaccine was released in India on Saturday and we sent it here (Bangladesh) on Thursday, it is only four days (Bangladesh gets the vaccine after India),” he added.
The foreign minister thanked New Delhi for the gift and said India remains beside Bangladesh in this pandemic as like they had supported during the country’s War of Liberation in 1971.
“This gift is an instance of good will that honourable Prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian premier Narandra Modi have achieved through building strong partnership between the two neighbouring countries,” he said.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam also spoke at the function.
Earlier, Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar tweeted on “VaccineMaitri”, saying India reaffirms the highest priority accorded by India to relations with Bangladesh.
Apart from today’s gift, Bangladesh is also set to purchase 3 crore doses of India-made vaccine under a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on November 5 and a subsequent agreement on December 13 among Bangladesh government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
Of the 3 crore, the health minister said the first consignment of 50 lakh doses of vaccines will arrive here later this month. “After that, we will get 50 lakh of vaccines in each month from India,” he said.
The government has set the stage for nationwide COVID-19 vaccine distribution from early February, health services director general (DGHS) Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam told BSS on Tuesday.
He said his office accomplished all required steps so the countrywide COVID-19 vaccination drive could be launched by the first week of February as initial consignment of nearly 50 lakh vaccine doses were expected to arrive by this month.
Each person needs two doses of vaccines while one would be inoculated with the second dose eight weeks after receiving the first jab.
The government by now formed 7344 vaccine distribution teams comprising six health workers entrusted with proper distribution of COVID-19 vaccines while as many as 42,000 health workers were trained.