A nationwide vaccination campaign is starting in the first week of February and a list of priority recipients has also been prepared, but there remains mistrust among the public about the shots against the novel coronavirus.
An ongoing study by the Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University found that, so far, 48% of people are reluctant to take the vaccine.
Now experts are urging the authorities to work on convincing people about vaccination by providing detailed information about the shots, even before the medicine arrives in the country.
Shafiun Shimul, an associate professor at the Institute of Health Economics and the lead researcher of the study, told The Business Standard (TBS), "The information we have in common is that people are reluctant to take the vaccine because of doubts about its effectiveness and concerns about the risks involved.
"Our research is ongoing. So far we have verified the data of 100 participants from different professions – including doctors and students. We are now collecting participants' data online, then we will go directly and collect data from at least four divisional cities and villages."
He further said, "There is some distrust among the public about information. So the campaign should start now to create a positive image of the vaccine among the people. Now the number of infections is lower than it used to be in the country but it may increase again. As long as one person is unprotected on Earth, no one is safe."
A journalist who is on the possible priority list of vaccine recipients told TBS, "The side effects of the vaccine are still unknown. If you want to get the vaccine, you have to sign a consent form that the government is not responsible for any damage after receiving the shot. Let there be more research on the effectiveness of the vaccine, I will take the shot later if needed."
Experts say the government should be patient and mentally prepare people to get vaccinated in phases, and keep watch so that people do not have fear or confusion about the vaccine.
Professor Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University told TBS, "The benefits of the vaccine are not yet clear to the public, so many are reluctant to take the vaccine. We have a few more days, in the meantime, we need to know why people are not willing to get vaccinated."
"We now need to find out how many of the potential vaccine recipients are reluctant to receive the shot. Additionally, we have to find out the cause of disinterest now," he said.
"It is necessary to determine which of these causes of disinterest are solvable and which are not. In the countries where the [novel] coronavirus vaccine is being given so far, the target is not being met as per the list. In this case, we need to prepare people for the vaccine," he added.
According to the latest World Economic Forum-Ipsos survey on vaccine confidence, which was unveiled on 27 December last year, vaccination intent is highest in China, where 80% of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement, "If a vaccine for Covid-19 were available, I would get it."
Countries with fairly high intent include: Brazil at 78%, the United Kingdom at 77%, Mexico at 77%, Australia at 75%, and South Korea at 75%.
Among the countries surveyed, those whose populations reported the lowest intent were South Africa at 53%, Russia at 43%, and France at 40%.
M Mushtuq Husain, a member of the Covid-19 vaccine core committee, told TBS, "We are analysing the data on all vaccines and their side effects. Campaigns will be launched through newspapers and televisions once the medicine arrives in the country.
Professor Sayedur Rahman said, "Advertising is a traditional method. It is difficult to make such a thing effective in just three days. With the help of experts, organised research work has to be started now. A very accurate or to the point message needs to be spread among the public."
According to the Directorate General of Health Services, the Oxford vaccine will arrive from India between 21 and 25 January, the registration for vaccinations will start on 26 January, through an app, and 50 lakh people will be vaccinated in the first month.