File photo: Sputnik V offers around 92% protection against Covid-19, according to late-stage testing results published in The Lancet in February this year

Foreign Ministry rejected Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s vaccine import proposal due to inconsistencies

Bangladesh could face another setback in purchasing Sputnik V vaccine from Russia under a government-to-government deal due to the recent wave of Covid in Russia, according to the Foreign Ministry.

“The government has decided, in principle, to procure vaccines from Russia. But the process is slightly delayed due to the resurgence of Covid in Russia, ”Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday.

The government sent a proposal to the Russian government to buy 10 million Sputnik V vaccines about a month ago. However, Russia has not sent any response in this regard.

The minister said: “Due to the recent wave of Covid, as many offices as possible are closed in Russia. Therefore, we have not received any feedback from the Russian government. But they are ready to sell us vaccines, according to the latest discussion. “

The Foreign Ministry also rejected the proposal sent by Gonoshasthaya Kendra to import the vaccine from Russia. A concerned ministry committee vetoed the proposal citing numerous inconsistencies.

“Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s proposal to import vaccines from Russia at a very low price did not obtain the approval of the relevant committee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Dr Momen.

Bangladesh signed a vaccine purchase and co-production agreement with Russia in May.

Following this, the two sides first discussed the issue of purchasing vaccines on May 28. The two countries agreed that Bangladesh would send a purchase proposal to the Russian government.

Following this decision, the General Directorate of Health Services (DGHS) prepared a purchase proposal which was sent by the Ministry of Health to the Russian government at the end of June.

“We sent a proposal to the Russian government about a month ago, but we have not yet received any feedback directly or through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” said Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, director general of the DGHS.

Controversy over Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s proposal

Although the Foreign Ministry has already decided to reject the vaccine import proposal, authorities in Gonoshasthaya Kendra, who are ready to import 20 million Sputnik V vaccines, have not yet received the information.

On July 19, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told media that no private agency had been appointed in Bangladesh regarding the Russian Sputnik V Covid vaccine, but mentioned that the founder and administrator of Gonoshasthaya Kendra (GSK), Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, had met him.

“It [Zafrullah Chowdhury] said he would bring in doses of vaccine from Russia within seven days. The price will be half of what we would pay to buy, ”he said.

However, the foreign minister said the Bangladeshi ambassador in Moscow had informed him that the Russian government had not appointed any private agent.

“Later we heard that the person who got the agency is an American. It [Zafrullah] will bring [the vaccines] of him, ”said Dr Momen.

A week later, Gonoshasthaya Kendra founder and trustee Zafrullah Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune that a private organization called Gamma-Medic in Russia was dealing with Gonoshasthaya Kendra to export Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine injections to Bangladesh.

“The Russian government does not directly deal with vaccine exports. The Russian government appoints the private organization, and this private organization has appointed Gonoshasthaya Kendra as its sole distributor in Bangladesh for importing doses of Covid-19 vaccine, ”he told Dhaka Tribune.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday: “Russia has so far not named any company mentioned in Gonoshasthaya Kendra’s proposal. We have found many inconvenient transactions made by the US based company mentioned by Zafrullah Chowdhury. So we can’t count on them.

Foreign Minister AK Momen said: “We now have sufficient reserves of vaccines and we regularly continue our discussions on all sources, as we do not want to face a shortage in the future.

“We plan to vaccinate 10 million people every week, in order to cover 50% of our population within two months,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

On the flip side, Zafrullah Chowdhury told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday that they still had not received any feedback from the government on inconsistencies over the proposal.

According to Gonoshasthaya Kendra, the Russian company instructed them to import 20 million vaccines from Russia at $ 8 each.

“We are still convinced that we can bring the vaccine within seven days if the government allows us,” said Zafrullah Chowdhury.

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