"This is at present a high priority for Bangladesh," said Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen during his meeting with Canadian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Benoit Préfontaine on Tuesday.
Referring to recent statement of Canadian Procurement Minister Anita Anand that Canadian Government might distribute excess stockpiles of AstraZeneca vaccine among developing countries, Dr Momen urged the Canadian High Commissioner to pursue his Government so that Bangladesh receives AstraZeneca vaccine from Canada.
He also underscored that such supply of vaccine should be directly sent to Bangladesh, as has been done for some other countries like Pakistan, rather than through the COVAX programme of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The main point of discussion was on the possibility of receiving AstraZeneca vaccine from Canada to meet up immediate second dose vaccine requirements in Bangladesh.
Dr Momen said Bangladesh acted fast on collecting vaccine by concluding the agreement with the Serum Institute in India to procure 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine and is now in a difficult situation as only 10.2 million doses of vaccine has been received from India.
He said the prospect of getting more is low due to the ongoing massive COVID-19 outbreak in India.
Dr Momen also proposed that Canada may help vaccinating forcibly displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh separately.
Foreign Minister Momen also apprised the Canadian High Commissioner of the Government’s efforts to acquire vaccine from some other countries including China, Russia and the US.
The Canadian High Commissioner assured that he will follow up with his government about Bangladesh’s request to provide 2 million doses of vaccine immediately, which is also being followed up with the Canadian Government by Bangladesh High Commission in Ottawa.
The Bangladesh Foreign Minister also thanked Canada for its continued strong political and humanitarian support for the Rohingya crisis, underscoring that sustainable return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar is the solution.
He also reiterated Bangladesh’s expectation that Canada would extend Duty Free Quota Free (DFQF) access to Bangladeshi export products till 2027, and also would commence negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) or Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with Bangladesh soon.
Dr Momen reiterated Bangladesh’s strong expectation that Nur Chowdhury, the convicted killer of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, would be returned back to Bangladesh in near future.
High Commissioner Préfontaine stated that Canada would continue its humanitarian support for displaced Rohingyas and host communities at the same scale for next three years, as was reflected in their budgetary framework for next three years.
He also underscored that Canada is willing to enhance its economic cooperation with Bangladesh, including in areas of trade and investment.