Concerns mounting over the possibility that vaccination centres themselves might turn into coronavirus hotspots
As Bangladesh’s Covid vaccination drive picked up pace since the government started to conduct a mass vaccination drive, concerns are mounting over the possibility that the vaccination centres themselves might turn into coronavirus hotspots.
In the last three days, hundreds of vaccine seekers were seen standing in long queues weathering heat and rain, health workers were observed breaching health rules and most were ignoring physical distancing at several vaccination centres.
Vaccinating a large population amid a pandemic is unlike other vaccination drives and it should be conducted by adhering to all kinds of infection control guidelines, experts say.
IEDCR Advisor Mushtaq Hussain told Dhaka Tribune that the health authorities in Bangladesh were not unfamiliar with mass inoculation as there were large-scale campaigns for other vaccines as well.
“However, the government needs to take extra measures this time around in light of the ongoing global pandemic,” he said.
There is no alternative to complying with hygiene rules for vaccine seekers as well as health workers to ensure proper vaccine dispensation, according to the public health expert.
“Health workers might make mistakes if the onrush of people at the centres is too much to handle. Proper vaccine dispensation will be challenging if there are too many people at once,” he added.
Many vaccine recipients in the last couple of days have complained that medics are not wearing gloves or using alcohol swabs before administering the jabs.
Moreover, several vaccination centres were struggling to properly manage the program in the face of inadequate manpower, he said.
To address the issue, the IEDCR advisor said people should volunteer to lend a helping hand at the centres and the government should utilize its resources to maintain order while providing services at the vaccination sites.
He also recommended keeping chairs at the centres so vaccine seekers could sit and maintain physical distancing.
‘Increase number of centres’
Meanwhile, eminent virologist Prof Nazrul Islam said increasing the number of vaccination centres was crucial to the success of a mass vaccination drive amid the pandemic.
“Bangladesh’s large population size is a disadvantage for a mass inoculation program amid a pandemic. Increasing the number of centres will ensure that the vaccine seekers are dispersed, resulting in fewer crowds,” he said.
Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said the government would increase the number of centres if required.
“Increasing the number of sites depends on the supply of vaccines. We have already inoculated a significant number of people, and it will be necessary to raise the number of centres if we receive more shipments,” she told Dhaka Tribune.
“I think many people are visiting the centres before receiving the registration confirmation SMS, causing long queues and large crowds in some of the places,” she said.
“People get confirmation texts based on the availability of vials. This is why one should only go to one’s designated centre after receiving the text,” she said.