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Covid-19: How can Bangladesh ramp up its vaccination capabilities?

  • Published at 11:00 pm August 2nd, 2021
Representational Photo: Mehedi Hasan/Dhaka Tribune

Lack of proper vaccine distribution, accessibility, and awareness are the main roadblocks in ensuring inoculation to all, say experts

Bangladesh resumed mass Covid-19 vaccination from the second week of July this year, after a hiatus caused by a low supply of vaccine doses.

According to public health experts, a lack of proper management of vaccine distribution, accessibility, and awareness are the main roadblocks in ensuring inoculation to all. 

As Bangladesh marked the end of its deadliest Covid month yet a couple of days ago, vaccinating as many people as possible seems to be the best bet for a country that is struggling in the fight against the pandemic. 

To ramp up vaccination capabilities, the vaccination facilities should be spread further out across the country and mass campaigns are needed to encourage people to get their jabs, suggested the experts.

On July 25, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said that the government planned to vaccinate at least 10 million people each month, with the help of the 210 million vaccines that are expected to arrive from different sources. 

On Sunday, he said that the health authorities were preparing to vaccinate as many as 10 million people within the next week.

If the government succeeds in executing this plan and maintains such a vaccination rate, the majority of the country’s population will be inoculated by the next year. 

File photo: People stand in line at Brahmanbaria General Hospital to get their shot of Covid-19 vaccine | Bangla Tribune

According to Our World in Data (OWID), an online publication run by a research team based at Oxford University, only 5.17% of Bangladeshis have received at least one jab of the Covid-19 vaccine so far.

Of these people, a mere 2.63% were fortunate enough to receive both their jabs.

To put things into perspective, neighbouring India, despite a devastating second Covid wave, has already managed to vaccinate 26.07% of its whole population.

Also Read - Public interest in vaccines increasing

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, said that the number of jabs Bangladesh had so far received and was expected to receive was not sufficient when compared to the country’s needs.

“But the real challenge, at this moment, for us is to make the vaccines accessible to the general people. Many people could not even take a single jab because the vaccination centers and hospitals were too far away from their homes.

“Many are skeptical and hesitant regarding getting immunized against the deadly virus. And this has happened due to the lack of effective awareness campaigns,” he added.

The vaccination facilities should be spread out throughout the country to make them more accessible, he opined. 

For example, the authorities could train and equip health workers with cold storage boxes so that they can carry the vaccines to remote places and set up vaccination camps where people can take the shot without any hassle, the eminent virologist said. 

Another important part of the vaccination program is to encourage people to take whatever vaccine is available and for that, there is no alternative to mass campaigns, he added.   

Vaccine in numbers

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday received the second consignment of 781,320 doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from Japan under the Covax facility.

The third consignment that will contain 616,780 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Bangladesh earlier received the first consignment of 245,200 doses from Japan on July 24.

With the fresh supplies, the government decided to resume administering the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at centres in the capital and Dhaka district from Monday.

And health-workers at vaccination centres across the country will start administering it from August 7. 

As of Sunday morning, around 4.298 million people have received the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, while about 1.52 million have only received the first dose and are awaiting the second one.

Also Read - Bangladesh set to launch massive Covid-19 vaccination drive

Moreover, 212,163 people received their first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 2,248,106 to date, while another 9,128 people received their second jab of the Chinese vaccine.

Meanwhile, 20 more people were administered the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, taking the total to 50,255. A total of 774 people received their second dose of the vaccine in the last 24 hours.

Besides, another 72,542 people received the first dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, taking the total to 687,681.

Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Director Shamsul Haque told an online bulletin on Sunday that people who could not take the second dose due to vaccine shortage could take the second dose now and this two or three months’ interval would not pose any health hazards to the recipients. 

“Covid-19 vaccines are absolutely not interchangeable. The person who took the first shot of AstraZeneca should not take any other vaccines for their second dose,” he warned.  

Virologist Islam said if there was a three to four months’ gap between the first dose and second doses, it would not do any harm to the recipient and therefore people who took the first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine should not hesitate to take the second jab now.   

According to OWID, 28.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and 14.6% have been fully vaccinated. 

A total of 4.14 billion doses have been administered globally, and 37.72 million are now administered each day. 

Only 1.1% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.