Bangladesh is finally going to begin the Covid-19 vaccination in the first week of February, dispelling all clouds of uncertainty over its timely arrival.
Fifty lakh doses of the vaccine will arrive from the Serum Institute of India between 21 and 25 January and those will be kept in Beximco warehouses for two days, said Dr Shamsul Haque, director of the Expanded Programme for Immunisation (EPI) of the health directorate, in a briefing on Monday.
The health directorate is expected to receive the vaccine doses on 27 January.
Selected frontline volunteers and health workers of a hospital will be jabbed first and they will be under observation for the next seven days, Haque added.
The countrywide immunisation will begin in the first week of February. The online registration for vaccination will start on 26 January. To be vaccinated, people will have to give their consent in a government-provided form. They will get a certificate after vaccination.
In the first phase, 50 lakh people will be given the shots and the second jab will be administered eight weeks later as per new instructions from Oxford University and AstraZeneca, said Director General of Health Services ABM Khurshid Alam.
Previously, the second jab was advised to be given four weeks apart. That is why the plan was to vaccinate 25 lakh people, he added.
On 4 January, uncertainty sprang up over the timely arrival of the Oxford vaccine in Bangladesh as Serum CEO Adar Poonawalla gave a statement that the Indian government banned the vaccine export for several months.
Many doubted whether the vaccine would be available here on time after the ban.
However, both the Bangladesh government and Beximco hoped that the ban would not hamper the timely arrival of vaccine doses in the country.
Priority recipients for shots
In the first phase, over 10.5 lakh frontline health workers in all government and registered private hospitals will be the priority recipients of the jab.
Besides, freedom fighters, law enforcement agency members, government workers, armed forces members, frontline journalists, elected public representatives and other frontline workers will also be on the priority list.
All elderly people aged between 77 and 80 plus will be immunised in the first phase.
All 21,863 national sportsmen will come under vaccination in two phases. Of them, 10,932 will get the jab in the first phase.
Some 1,20,000 unskilled migrant workers will be vaccinated in two phases – 60,000 in each term – before their departure to the destination countries. The overseas jobseekers, who want to get vaccinated, will stay in the country for eight weeks to get the second dose.
They will have to submit all legal documents, including passport, visa and work permit, for getting the shots.
Covid vaccination preparation
Covid vaccine doses will be sent maintaining a cold chain to EPI centres in 64 districts.
The government will set up 7,500 vaccination centres in all health facilities across the country. There will also be 7,344 teams for vaccinating people – each group comprising two health workers (a nurse and a sub assistant community medical officer) and four volunteers. Some 100-150 people will be vaccinated at a centre each day. Moreover, there will be arrangements to counter possible adverse side-effects from the shot.
There will be a committee at district, upazila and union levels to monitor any adverse reaction from the Covid-19 vaccine – whether mild or severe.
Police will provide security for vaccine transportation, storage and immunisation.
Some 37% of the population aged below 18 and 30-40 lakh pregnant mothers will not be vaccinated.
Earlier, on 5 November 2020, Bangladesh's health ministry signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding with the Serum Institute of India and Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd to import the Oxford vaccine.
As per the deal, Serum was supposed to supply three crore doses of the vaccine – 50 lakh per month – for $4 per shot in the initial six months of the first phase.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh will also get vaccine doses under the COVAX facility between March and June in the first phase, said EPI Director Shamsul Haque.
Bangladesh will also send an expression of interest for Pfizer vaccine to COVAX in a day or two, according to the health directorate.
The country is expected to get four lakh doses of Pfizer vaccine for health workers from COVAX.