Several Bangladesh media outlets over the weekend reported that the country hasn’t yet reached a deal on the commercial purchase of COVID-19 vaccine Sinopharm quoting Chinese officials.
The development follows an apparent three-cornered diplomatic dispute involving Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China, with initial reports suggesting Bangladesh managed to get the vaccine dose at $ 10 each, $ 5 less than the price Sri Lanka had secured from China.
Bangladesh Prime Minister’s Special Assistant Shah Ali Farhad, who earlier in his Facebook revealed the vaccine deal at $ 10 per dose, had subsequently removed the reference. In the updated post in FB, Farhad said the Cabinet has approved a $ 150 million proposal to buy 15 million doses of Sinopharm vaccine under a government-to-government arrangement. This means $ 15 per dose, similar to the amount paid by Sri Lanka.
The Business Insider Bangladesh said Minister Counsellor and Embassy of China Deputy Chief of Mission Hualong Yan had, on Saturday, written on his Facebook page: “Just wondering why always false information from Bangladeshi side, if media’s report correct. First of all, no deal was made between Sinopharm and Bangladeshi side till today. Second, this was commercial purchase negotiation between Bangladesh Government and Sinopharm, rather than with Chinese Government. It’s sincerely hoped that our Bangladeshi brothers and sisters will get the most-needed vaccines at earlier date [sic].”
Business Insider also said on 27 May that the Cabinet Committee on Public Purchase approved a proposal for buying 1.5 crore doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine.
Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Dr. Shadia Akter, after the meeting, said that the Chinese vaccine will come in three phases – 5 million every month – with it costing Bangladesh $ 10 per dose.
“Disclosure of procurement price of China’s Sinopharm vaccine in Sri Lanka has sparked a row after reports emerged that Colombo had to shell out a higher per-dose price than Bangladesh,” the news report added.
Another media report said China is giving 600,000 doses of Sinopharm as a gift to Bangladesh in the second phase, which is said to come to Bangladesh by 13 June. It also claimed the Bangladesh Government had officially apologised to the Chinese Embassy in Dhaka and the Sinopharm Group for violating negotiation terms after misinformation had been circulated by some of their officials.