The government will look for alternative sources for procuring Covid-19 vaccine if the Indian antidote is found costly, says finance minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
"We will check the price of vaccine in the international market and what we are paying. We can try to control it," he said on Wednesday after the virtual meeting of the cabinet committee on government purchase in the capital.
The minister's remarks came amid widespread criticism that Bangladesh is buying vaccine at 47 per cent higher than the Indian government pays for it.
Local drug maker Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd on November 5 signed a deal with Serum Institute of India Pvt Ltd to collect and supply 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to the government.
Each dose of the vaccine, developed by Oxford University in collaboration with AstraZeneca, will cost Bangladesh US$5.0, up from $3.0 to $4.0 in India.
"Many countries will produce vaccines. So, if it costs higher in one country, we have the option to reach to another," said Mr Kamal replying to a question as whether higher vaccine prices will put pressure on the budget.
However, the minister defended the higher costs, saying when India produces vaccine, its cost of production will be low. But when they are selling it they will include cost and profit.
"We can't expect to get vaccine at their production cost," Mr Kamal said.
Asked to what extent the Covid-19 vaccine will get importance in the next budget, the minister said everyone is now waiting for it.
"Getting vaccine is not a big issue, but inoculating all is a big deal. Hopefully, we will be successful in this case, too," he said.
Referring to the Prime Minister, Mr Kamal said, the government will bear the vaccination cost for people who do not have the capacity.
On Bangladesh's graduation from the poor country's club, the minister said the government is hopeful about shedding the least developed country status by February next.
He said Bangladesh met all the three core requirements set by the United Nations for a country to be graduated to the next level.
At the cabinet meeting, the committee approved import of 50,000 tonnes of wheat from Agrocorp International Pte Ltd, Singapore at a cost of Tk 1.386 billion, and 30,000 tonnes of diesel from Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, India at Tk 1.077, among other things.
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