China has attempted to pin the blame for the cancelled vaccine trials in Bangladesh on India. Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech told Bangladesh in September last year that it didn't have money to pay for the vaccine trials and its request for funding to CEPI had been declined

Trials for Chinese Covid-19 vaccine Sinovac were halted in Bangladesh last year due to meddling by India, China’s state media has claimed in a report on Tuesday, accusing New Delhi of torpedoing Beijing's efforts to push its vaccine in Dhaka. The claim reported in the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid run by the Communist Party of China, is Beijing’s response to a report in the Hindustan Times that outlined how Bangladesh rescinded its decision to allow Covid vaccine trials last October after a last-minute demand by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech that Dhaka co-fund the trials.

The Global Times report said the trials, according to the agreement sealed in July, were to start in August. It also confirmed that according to the initial agreement, Bangladesh did not need to share the cost.

“But the clinical trials were delayed until October due to the Indian government allegedly meddling in the two sides' cooperation during the period,” the report - one of the many that China’s tightly-controlled media has published to target vaccines made by India and western companies - said.

According to Sinovac Biotech’s 22 September letter to the Bangladesh letter, the trials scheduled in August had to be pushed back due to delay in approvals from Dhaka.

The company had, according to this letter seen by Hindustan Times, claimed that it had “reallocated our funds for the trial (in Bangladesh) to trials in other countries, since, at the time, we were uncertain about the ultimate approval of the trial in Bangladesh.”

Sinovac Biotech also claimed that it had requested the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), an organisation set up to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases, to fund the trials in Bangladesh but this application was rejected.

Sinovac Biotech sprung a surprise on Bangladesh on 22 September, claiming that it would have to co-fund the vaccine trial since the company had reallocated funds

“However, we are working on plans to partially rectify the funding situation by the end of October-early November, though we will still require co-funding to complete the entire trial in Bangladesh,” the company said in its letter to Bangladesh’s health minister Zahid Maleque.

Maleque told news agency Reuters in October that Dhaka wouldn’t go ahead with the trial because the company’s demand for funding was contrary to their original agreement.

“We are not co-funding the trial. That was not in the agreement. They never asked for money when they approached us… As per agreement, they’ll bear all expenses of the trial, they’ll give us 110,000 free vaccines and they’ll share the technology so that our pharmaceutical companies can make the vaccine,” the minister told Reuters on 13 October.

In sharp contrast to the Chinese approach, New Delhi sent a gift of two million doses of Covishield vaccine to Dhaka on January 21 and facilitated a commercial contract of 30 million doses with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India.