Update January 13, 2021

Dhaka 11-14 am, 31-July, 2021

Beximco could start private sales of COVID-19 vaccine next month

Mirajul Moin Joy

Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharmaceuticals will buy up to 3 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from Serum Institute of India at about $8 each for sale on the private market, Beximco’s chief operating officer told Reuters.

The COO, Rabbur Reza, said that was about twice the price of around $4 that Beximco had agreed for separate supplies of 5 million doses a month, over the first half of the year, for the Bangladeshi government’s subsidised mass-vaccination programme.

Serum Institute will begin deliveries of the shot later this month, both those for state and private use, Reza told Reuters on Tuesday. The vaccine is administered in two separate doses per patient, typically with weeks between them.

The delivery of the shots to India’s eastern neighbour, the world’s eighth-most populous country with more than 160 million people, comes as India tries to meet global demand for vaccines and bolster its reputation as a pharmaceutical powerhouse.

Private sales of the vaccine by Beximco could begin in Bangladesh next month, and at a retail price of about 1,125 taka ($13.27) per dose, Reza said. Currently they have a deal for 1 million doses which could be raised by another 2 million, he added.

The rates and deal details have not been previously reported.

Beximco, one of Bangladesh’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, is the exclusive distributor of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country.

Reza said Beximco had also had preliminary discussions with other Indian vaccine developers such as Biological E and Bharat Biotech, whose shot was approved this month by India as a backup to the one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University.

“As of now, our partner is Serum and we will continue with them, that’s our goal,” the COO said in a phone interview. “If the government wants more vaccines, we can discuss other vaccines too that Serum is working on – if the government wants something other than the AstraZeneca one.”

Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, plans to sell 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for 200 rupees ($2.73) each to the Indian government, and will charge slightly higher for subsequent purchases. India has already bought 11 million doses at that initial rate.

Serum wants to sell the shot for 1,000 rupees ($13.66) a dose on the private market, whenever that is allowed by New Delhi.

Though Beximco is initially paying $4 per dose for the vaccine for the Bangladeshi government programme, the price will eventually be adjusted to around the average rate the Indian government would pay Serum, Reza said.

Serum is bearing the cost of transporting the vaccines to the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka from India.

Reza said Beximco has the option to buy additional volumes from Serum for the state vaccination programme than the currently agreed 30 million doses for the country, which has reported more than 523,000 COVID-19 cases and 7,800 deaths.

As a low-income country, Bangladesh will also get around 68 million doses of vaccines – possibly including the one developed by Pfizer Inc with partner BioNTech SE – at a subsidised rate from global vaccine alliances.

Serum has partnered with British drugmaker AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce more than a billion doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for poorer countries.

($1 = 84.8000 taka; $1 = 73.2328 Indian rupees)

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