Foreign minister critical of rich countries for not giving the vaccines Bangladesh has requested to provide second doses to 1.6 million people
The frantic efforts made by Bangladesh to procure the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine developed at Oxford University are yet to see any success, with nearly 1.6 million people facing uncertainty about their second shots.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen, while talking to Dhaka Tribune, was very critical of the rich countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, for not providing Bangladesh with the necessary vaccines to fully vaccinate nearly 1.6 million people who had already got the first of their two shots.
Referring to acquiring vaccines as a right similar to human rights, the minister said that the Covid-19 jabs should be for people’s good, not for the rich countries to stockpile.
Bangladesh appears to have explored the possibility of procuring vaccines from many countries ever since Serum Institute of India expressed its inability to honour the agreement with Bangladesh to supply AstraZeneca vaccines. The country is also trying to get vaccines from private entities in the United Kingdom and the United States. But none of these efforts have yielded any success so far.
According to diplomatic sources, the US, UK and Canada are the countries that could have provided the necessary AstraZeneca vaccines Bangladesh so desperately needs.
“In order to ensure second shots for about 1.6 million people, we have tried to procure the necessary vaccines from all possible sources,” Dr Momen told this correspondent.
“We have asked the US, UK and Canada, the countries that have the vaccines. But we are yet to get any positive response,” he said.
The rich countries have much more vaccines than they need, yet they will not give the vaccines to those in need, Momen lamented.
“They talk about human rights, good governance and other issues. The right to vaccines is also a right. We always say vaccines should be for people’s good,” he said.
Foreign minister likely to visit US next week
Foreign Minister A.K. Momen is likely to visit the US next week to attend two United Nations events, including one on the Rohingya crisis.
Efforts are underway for a meeting between the foreign minister and his US counterpart, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The summary of the visit is pending for the approval of the prime minister.
About the visit, Dr Momen said: “We were invited by the UN to participate in a couple of events. One of them is on the Rohingya issue. You all know the Rohingya issue is very important for us.”
“This [visit] has not yet been finalized. Parliament is in session,” he said.
About a possible meeting with Secretary Blinken, the foreign minister said, “We have been told that he [Blinken] will be travelling abroad during my visit. We are working on a suitable alternative time.”
“If the meeting does take place, we will talk about the vaccines that we have requested,” he said.
Dr Momen expressed his optimism about getting a share of the 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines that the US will give away to other countries.
“We will get some. But we do not know how many we will get and when. We want 2 million of them,” he said.
‘Vaccine has turned into a diplomatic tool’
The foreign minister said that Covid-19 vaccines had now turned into a diplomatic tool.
“Vaccine is now a diplomatic tool. It is for them to use in a way similar to human rights and good governance issues. These issues are used in accordance with their convenience,” he said.
“We fear that the US might want to bargain with us on different issues before giving us the vaccines. They will try to take advantage of it. But we will not compromise on our national interests,” he added.