Many were denied vaccines due to supply shortage
The government’s six-day-long mass inoculation drive drew to a close on Thursday with the dispensation of more than five million Covid vaccine doses at makeshift centres as well as at permanent facilities.
The campaign attracted a lot of interest, as evidenced by the large crowds witnessed at most centres at the grassroots as well as in city corporation areas.
Many centres even had to turn down vaccine seekers — some had queued up the night before — due to supply shortage.
Bangladesh had initially planned to vaccinate 3.2 million people against Covid when it launched the drive on August 7, but people’s enthusiastic response helped top the target by a sizable margin.
But it was not all smooth sailing as there were several reports of disorderly situations at many centres during the six days.
Many gathered at the centres, ignoring hygiene guidelines, while some complained that they did not receive their Covid jabs despite weathering heat and rain every day.
Md Khokon, a rickshaw puller, said he had gone to Surjer Hashi Clinic on Green Road on Sunday and Monday but was unable to get his vaccine.
He went to the centre in Bhuter Goli on Wednesday and one in Shahbagh on the campaign’s last day, but was unsuccessful again on both occasions.
“I just wanted to take the vaccine considering the safety of myself as well as of my passengers. I wasted so much time waiting in queues. What about my livelihood? I could not earn on those four days,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Toufiqur Rahman, employee of a private organization, visited many centres from Dhanmondi to Old Dhaka on his motorcycle in search of a Covid vaccine dose, but to no avail.
“I was put off by the never-ending queues at three centres at 6:30am on Thursday and did not get in line due to physical distancing issues. I found another centre in Azimpur where the queue was small, but after waiting there for 30 minutes the facility authorities announced that they were done for the day,” he complained.
Scene at city corporations
Before the start of the campaign, Rangpur, Khulna and Chittagong city corporations had decided to run the program for two days — on the first day, August 7, and on August 14.
However, the health authorities of the country had later instructed the local administrations to be done with the Moderna Covid vaccine allocations by Thursday and use up any surplus vials for first doses as soon as possible.
The three aforementioned city corporations are now uncertain about what they should do in this situation. The offices of the chief health officers of the city corporations told our local correspondents that they were awaiting fresh government instructions.
On Thursday in Rangpur, at least 20 people sustained injuries at the Rangpur Medical College Hospital vaccination centre in a chaotic situation that ensued after several people had forced their way into the queue.
Meanwhile, Khulna Civil Surgeon Dr Niaz Mohammad said some vaccines set aside for the regular drive had to be used for the city corporation inoculations.
Mymensingh, Sylhet and Narayanganj city corporations used up their allotted doses within three days from the start of the campaign.
Rajshahi was forced to stop the special campaign as well as the regular one due to supply shortage on Tuesday.
Gazipur, Barisal and the two city corporations in Dhaka continued mass inoculations till the last day.
Dhaka Tribune was unable to confirm the situation in Comilla city corporation.
More mass campaigns in future?
Acknowledging the vaccine shortage, DGHS Additional Director General Dr Nasima Sultana said it was not possible to run such extensive drives on a regular basis.
“The campaign will continue a month later to administer the second dose,” she said.
“What we can do now is increase the number of booths at the regular vaccination facilities,” the public health expert added.
“[But] plans are amended all the time. We may run another mass inoculation campaign in the future. Everything depends on the number of Covid vaccine doses in hand,” Dr Nasima said, holding out hope.