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Health Secy: Vaccine drive to continue with AstraZeneca shot

  • Published at 05:05 pm March 17th, 2021
AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine
File photo: Vials labelled 'AstraZeneca Covid-19 Coronavirus Vaccine' and a syringe are seen in front of a displayed AstraZeneca logo in this illustration taken March 10, 2021 Reuters

The government will operate mobile courts across the country to ensure the use of masks and follow health regulations, says Health Secretary Abdul Mannan

Bangladesh does not plan to suspend its rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, despite a cascading number of countries doing so over reports of some recipients developing dangerous blood clots. 

Md Abdul Mannan, secretary of Health Care Division, while noting the suspension in some European countries, said no unusual side effects have been reported after taking the vaccine in Bangladesh.

“So far those who took the first dose of the vaccine are all in good health, so Bangladesh has no plan to halt its vaccine drive,” he said, before adding: “I don’t see why some countries have chosen to suspend its use.” 

Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and the Netherlands were joined by Latvia and Sweden as European countries that have suspended use of the vaccine developed by Oxford University scientists in partnership with British-Swedish pharma giant AstraZeneca. 

The Europeans were joined by Indonesia, Thailand and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), but by Tuesday the Thais were back, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha becoming the first person in the country to receive the vaccine. 

It has created a jagged divide across the globe, forcing politicians to assess the health risks of halting the shots at a time when many countries, especially in Europe, are already struggling to overcome logistical hurdles and vaccine hesitancy among their populations, reports AP.

AstraZeneca has developed a manufacturing base in Asia, and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has been contracted by the company to produce a billion doses of the vaccine for developing nations. Hundreds of millions more are to be manufactured this year in Australia, Japan, Thailand and South Korea. 

AstraZeneca said there have been 37 reports of blood clots out of more than 17 million people vaccinated in the 27-country European Union (EU) and Britain. The drug maker said there is no evidence the vaccine carries an increased risk of clots.

In fact, it said the incidence of clots is much lower than would be expected to occur naturally in a general population of this size and is similar to that of other licensed Covid-19 vaccines. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the EU’s European Medicines Agency have also said that the data does not suggest the vaccine caused the clots and that people should continue to be immunized.

Blood clots can travel through the body and cause heart attacks, strokes and deadly blockages in the lungs. AstraZeneca reported 15 cases of deep vein thrombosis, or a type of clot that often develops in the legs, and 22 instances of pulmonary embolisms, or clots in the lungs. 

Bangladesh is operating the vaccine campaign following the direction of the WHO, yet no instruction to halt the vaccine use came from it, so the country will continue with the vaccine campaign, Abdul Mannan said. 

As per the agreement signed, Bangladesh will receive the remaining 20 million vaccine doses it has booked with SII in due time, he added. 

Tougher line on health regulations

The government decided to take a tougher position aiming to fight Covid-19 transmission and the ministry has sent letters to the districts with direction on fines as penalties and other punishments for violating the health regulations. 

The government will operate mobile courts across the country to ensure the use of masks and follow health regulations from Tuesday as the number of infections is surging in recent times, the secretary said. 

“The administration will be in a tough position in this regard,” he added. 

“We are monitoring so that hospitals are prepared and patients receive proper treatment. All hospital authorities have been alerted,” Mannan added.

The maintenance of health guidelines will be strictly monitored but the government is not going back to the lockdown, although the pandemic situation is worsening, he said. 

After nearly two months, the number of Coronavirus infections is rising and it topped the 1000 mark for the past four consecutive days, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). 

No crisis will emerge even if the number of patients rise rapidly, he assured, adding that hospital authorities have already been alerted regarding this.

In previous months the intensity of the Coronavirus transmission significantly fell along with the fatalities but a sudden rise in the number of new cases and deaths has imposed concern upon them, the secretary said, blaming people’s unawareness in following health hygiene. 

“Many people don’t want to conduct Covid-19 tests, how will they know whether they carry the virus or not?” he asked.

The education institutes of the country were shut from March 17 last year since the first Covid-19 case was detected in the country on March 8. 

“Educational institutes were scheduled to resume from March 30, but the Education Ministry will review the matter if the infections keep surging at the present rate, and the Prime Minister will take the final decision,” Mannan said. 

Meanwhile, Director General of Directorate General of Health Services ABM Khurshid Alam warned that people’s ignorance and negligence in obeying the health guidelines may prove disastrous in the future. 

The majority of new infections are emerging among the people of the young generation, and they are requiring Intensive Care Units (ICUs) admission in most cases, he said. 

“There is no alternative to remaining alert and careful,” Khurshid added.

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