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Rich countries hoarding Covid-19 vaccines, imposing conditions on supply: Momen


Bangladeshs Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen expressed disappointment over rich countries behaviour in terms of supplying Covid-19 vaccines, saying they are hoarding vaccines and stipulating conditions for supply to other countries.

"Our prime minister said Covid-19 vaccines should be a public good. Unfortunately, rich countries are hoarding vaccines. They have several times more vaccines than they need. Vaccines are expiring," he said without naming any country or the conditions. 

"Those countries promised vaccines but are not supplying it. Before giving [the vaccines], they are asking for this or that in in return. Nothing should be tied to vaccines" Momen told reporters today at the foreign ministry after his return from a weeklong visit to the US.

During his visit, he had attended two UN events -- one on the Myanmar situation and the other on least developed countries (LDCs) -- and held a number of bilateral meetings with senior UN officials.

Bangladesh is desperately seeking vaccines from various countries including the US, China, Russia, UK, Australia and Canada following India's halt of vaccine export in February, after Serum Institute of India's supply of only seven million of the 30 million AstraZeneca vaccines contracted with Bangladesh.

Bangladesh then reached out to other countries. China has donated 1.1 million Sinopharm vaccines, while Bangladesh received 106,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine. Bangladesh also signed a deal with China for vaccine import and is in the final stages of a deal with Russia. 

Some 15 lakh Bangladeshis who had received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine are waiting for the second dose but unsure of when the country would get more doses of that particular vaccine.

Two weeks ago, the foreign ministry said Bangladesh would receive 1 million 800 AstraZeneca vaccines through Covax, but did not confirm the time of arrival.

Momen said the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has written a letter to him recently, assuring vaccine supply following requests from the Bangladesh government and the Bangladeshi community for AstraZeneca vaccine.

He said Blinken said they will consider Bangladesh's case, but did not mention the amount and time. The US basically wants to give the vaccine under the Covax facility, but Bangladesh said they can also supply vaccines on a bilateral basis.

"The good news is that the US government is positive about Bangladesh," Momen said after the Biden administration announced the distribution list for 55 million of the 80 million doses of The US's own vaccine supply which the president pledged to allocate by the end of June.

Of that, 16 million will come to Asia, including Bangladesh.

Last week, the G7 summit promised distribution of 1 billion vaccines globally by next year. Momen said the rich countries are making promises but are not delivering yet.

Referring to his attending the UN event on the Myanmar crisis, Momen said Bangladesh's focus is Rohingya repatriation but Myanmar has not kept its promise of creating conducive conditions for Rohingya refugees to return.

"However, our friends, who speak of human rights and appreciate us for hosting the Rohingyas, are increasing their business with Myanmar. Their business with Myanmar has increased up to 15 percent," he said.

"We raised such double standards at the UN," he said.

Referring to the UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar, Momen said Bangladesh wants restoration of democracy in Myanmar but also Rohingya repatriation. However, the developed countries did not include the repatriation issue in the resolution, which is why Bangladesh abstained from voting.

The Bangladeshi diaspora in New York requested the foreign minister to ensure their security when they visit Bangladesh, speed up the process of issuing dual citizenship and frame a policy so that their children can legally repatriate money that they get by selling their parental properties in Bangladesh.

"I said we will look into the matters."

Published : June 23, 2021

By : The Daily Star/ANN