DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India on Thursday to buy 30 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine is seen as one of the most advanced candidates in the race against the novel coronavirus.
“Whenever the vaccine is ready, the Serum Institute will give us 30 million doses in the first phase,” health minister Zahid Maleque told reporters after the deal was signed in Dhaka.
He said 5 million doses of vaccine per month would be purchased through Bangladesh’s drug maker, Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
“We’ll be able to vaccinate 15 million people as two shots of vaccine are required for each person 28 days apart,” Maleque said.
He said Serum Institute would provide the vaccine at a price similar to that which India pays. Sources said the cost could be $4 to $5 per dose.
Bangladesh was in talks with development partners, including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, to secure funds for the vaccine, government officials said.
Meanwhile, there are doubts over Sinovac Biotech’s late-stage trial of a potential coronavirus vaccine in Bangladesh after Dhaka refused to meet the Chinese company’s demand for co-funding.
Experts fear Bangladesh might face another surge in infections during the winter, having so far confirmed 416,006 cases, including 6,021 deaths.
The Serum Institute, the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to produce more than a billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for global supply.
It is holding trials for three potential coronavirus vaccines, including one licensed to AstraZeneca by Oxford University.
AstraZeneca said on Thursday that it was holding back deliveries while it awaits the data from late-stage clinical trials in order to maximise the shelf-life of supplies.
The drugmaker has signed several supply and manufacturing deals with companies and governments around the world, while data in October showed the vaccine produces an immune response in both old and young adults.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Hugh Lawson)