People are seen wearing protective mask while riding on a rickshaw in Dhaka, Bangladesh, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Files

Bangladesh’s drug regulator said on Thursday it had approved the emergency use of a vaccine developed by an affiliate of China’s Sinopharm, as it scrambles to find alternative sources for COVID-19 inoculations after supplies from India faltered.

Bangladesh’s vaccination drive suffered after its bigger neighbour halted exports of the AstraZeneca (AZN.L) shot in response to a record surge in domestic infections. read more

“Hopefully, 500,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine will arrive in Bangladesh within two weeks,” Mahbubur Rahman, head of the Directorate General of Drug Administration, told reporters.

The regulator this week also approved Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. L1N2MK0TP

Rahman said government-level talks were also ongoing on making Russian and Sinopharm vaccines in Bangladesh.

The World Health Organization expects to decide whether to give emergency approval for Sinopharm’s vaccine by the end of this week.

No detailed efficacy data of Sinopharm’s vaccine has been publicly released but its developer, Beijing Biological Products Institute, a unit of Sinopharm subsidiary China National Biotec Group (CNBG), said the vaccine was 79.34% effective in preventing people from developing the disease, based on interim data.

It has been approved in several countries including China, Pakistan and the UAE.

Bangladesh has been relying on the AstraZeneca vaccine so far, and since launching vaccinations in February around 6 million people have been inoculated.

It plans to eventually cover about 80% of the country’s 170 million people. read more

This week its stopped administering first doses, however, amid uncertainty over shipments from India.

Bangladesh has an agreement with the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, for 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine but has received only 7 million so far. It received 3.2 million AstraZeneca doses from India as gift.

Bangladesh’s second wave peaked around three weeks ago. Since then, daily infections have fallen by more than half, with 2,341 new cases reported on Thursday as well as 88 fatalities.

There have been 756,955 infections and 11,393 deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.

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