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Stringent terms and conditions Vaccine purchase deal with Russia hangs in balance

12 May 2021

Kazi Zahidul Hasan  :
Bangladesh's Covid-19 vaccine purchase from Russia is hanging in the balance, as the Eurasian country remains strict on its terms and conditions to export the Sputnik V vaccine.
Officials said, the Bangladesh government is keen to buy Covid-19 vaccine from Russia under a G-to-G deal. But a complexity over the vaccine purchase has surfaced after Russia sent a draft purchase deal last week tagging several stringent terms and conditions which may go against the national interest.
The Health Ministry of Bangladesh has already raised objections to eight sections and sub-sections of the 18-page draft supply agreement, prepared by the Management Company of Russia Direct Investment (RDIF).
According to draft agreement, the seller will not be liable if the supply is delayed due to the low production and crisis of raw materials. Rather the deadline will be extended until the production is raised adequately. In this case, the vaccines must be accepted even if the supply is delayed.
A sub-section of the deal says that advance payment has to be made 50 per cent of total purchasing price ahead of the first consignment. But there is no recompense if the suppliers fail to supply in time.Another section cites that all information of side effects for using vaccines has to be shared with the seller. However, the buyer have to bear all liabilities of side effects. In this regard, questions have been raised why the information has to be shared with the suppliers if they do not shoulder the liabilities.
According to another section of the draft deal, no action can be taken against the suppliers if they violate the agreement. In this case, the suppliers have been given the right to close the agreement. But the buyer has no such scope.
Officials said Russia has offered Bangladesh the Sputnik V vaccine at a rate of $9.95 for each dose whereas the Serum Institute of India sold the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to Bangladesh at $4 a dose.
"We have raised objection to some clauses of the draft deal to uphold the national interest," said Director General of Health Services (DGHS) spokesperson Dr Nazmul Islam, adding, "We cannot harm the national interest by signing the deal hurriedly.  Highest priority has to be given to national interests in such an agreement."
A foreign ministry official said Dhaka is still in talks with Moscow over the vaccine purchase.  But we are not sure when the deal will be signed.
Drug authorities in Bangladesh earlier approved Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country.
Before that, Bangladesh signed a Covid-19 vaccine co-production agreement with Russia in the wake of growing uncertainty over an ongoing vaccination campaign in the country due to India's postponement of agreed vaccine shipments.
Russia approved the Sputnik V vaccine for domestic use in August last year.  The country claimed that its efficacy is around 91 percent.
Besides, the Directorate General of Drug Administration Drug also approved Chinese Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in Bangladesh.
Officials said the government of Bangladesh has already approached USA, Russia and China for vaccine procurement to continue its ongoing inoculation campaign.
Bangladesh, a country of more than 170 million people, signed a tripartite agreement with the Serum Institute of India on December 13 to purchase 30 million doses of the Covishield vaccine on an installment basis.
But until now, Dhaka has only received seven million doses in two installments, while New Delhi has sent 3.2 million doses as a gift. India said it would not be exporting the vaccine right now due to a domestic shortage.
Bangladesh began its vaccination drive in February. More than 5.82 million people have received their first dose, while nearly 3.14 million received second doses.
The government suspended administering the first doses from April 26 due to vaccine shortage.

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