By Ruma Paul
DHAKA (Reuters) - Bangladesh is ready to hold trials of potential COVID-19 vaccines developed by India and will receive early supplies of any successful candidate, officials said on Wednesday, as a Chinese firm continued to await assent for its trial request.
New Delhi considers its eastern neighbour Bangladesh a strategic ally and is wary of Beijing's rising influence there.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent his foreign secretary to Bangladesh's capital Dhaka on Tuesday on a two-day visit to hold meetings with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and officials.
"Bangladesh is ready to collaborate in the development of a COVID vaccine, including its trial, and looks forward to early affordable availability of the vaccine when it is ready," its foreign ministry said in a statement.
The release followed a meeting of the foreign secretary and his Indian counterpart Harsh Vardhan Shringla, during which Shringla had discussed India's economies of scale in vaccine manufacturing with Bangladeshi officials, the statement said.
"They (India) positively responded, saying that they are developing vaccines not only for themselves but also for others," Bangladesh's Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen told reporters after the meeting.
"It will be made available for Bangladesh in the primary stage."
India is home to the world's biggest vaccine making company, the Serum Institute of India, and is currently holding trials for three potential COVID-19 vaccines, including one licensed to AstraZeneca Plc by Oxford University.
The state medical research agency of Bangladesh, which has reported 285,091 coronavirus infections and 3,781 deaths, approved a third-phase trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd last month.
However, final approval from the government is still pending.
(Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Krishna N. Das and Jan Harvey)