Dhaka, Bangladesh: Authorities in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka say they are on the verge of running out of coronavirus vaccines, and they are hoping China and Russia will help them combat a devastating pandemic wave.
Covid-19 cases and deaths have hit record levels across India and its neighbors in recent weeks and all are counting on vaccine campaigns to head off the next surge.
However, India’s decision to halt vaccine exports last month in response to mounting local shortages has had a negative impact on other countries, and the three South Asian nations have paused their immunization programs as they search foreign markets for new supplies.
Bangladesh has roughly one million doses of AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines on hand, with another 100,000 Pfizer vaccines on the way, but all will be gone in “days,” according to government health officials A.B.M. Khorshed Alam.
There have been 800,000 illnesses and 12,200 deaths in the 168 million-strong country. Experts believe the true toll in Bangladesh, like in other South Asian countries, is significantly higher.
Bangladesh had a deal to buy 30 million Covishield doses from the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine producer. When India halted exports last month, only seven million had been delivered.
It has since approached China and Russia for vaccines, as well as Western countries that may have AstraZeneca vaccines on hand.
Officials reported that an agreement with China for an undefined quantity of Sinopharm shots was approved on Wednesday.
Bangladesh could not expect commercial supply before December, according to China’s Ambassador Li Jiming. “The lineup is too lengthy,” he told the bdnews24.com portal.
‘Vaccines must be provided’
Nepal has an estimated 1.5 million patients waiting for the second shot of Covishield, with supplies further held up by the Indian export prohibition. It is now working its way through China’s diminishing supply of Sinopharm vaccines.
Officials said Sri Lanka, which has a population of 21 million people, has about 115,000 vaccine doses left and has delayed inoculations to 15,000 per day while negotiating with other countries.
On Thursday, the daily death toll from the current pandemic wave reached a fresh high of 38.
Sri Lanka’s deal to buy 13.5 million Covishield dosages from Serum International was halted by India’s export prohibition, according to authorities.
Sri Lanka has gone through 600,000 Sinopharm pills and expects to receive another 26 million from Russia and China.
Governments and pharmaceutical corporations, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, must assist poor Asian countries where hospitals are overflowing with patients.
“Tens of thousands of lives are being lost each week and vaccines must be available so that we can prevent further terrible tolls in the weeks and months ahead,” said Alexander Matheou, Asia Pacific head of the IFRC.
Even India, a big producer of pharmaceuticals and vaccines, is on the lookout for international supply.
India has already begun importing Sputnik V from Russia since shortages have hindered its ambitious goal of inoculating 300 million people by the end of July.
A total of 150 million people have received the first dose, with another 40 million receiving the second. Daily injections, on the other hand, have dropped from 3.6 million in April to 1.4 million on Thursday.
Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will travel to the United States next week, according to media sources, to meet with executives from US vaccine companies.