About 90% of Covid-19 patients currently undergoing treatment at hospitals across the country are non-vaccinated. Around 75% of them are from rural areas and are mostly elderly people.
Against this backdrop, the government plans on launching vaccination campaigns in the villages from next month to bring down infections as well as deaths caused by the novel coronavirus, Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told The Business Standard.
Under the drive, 60 lakh people will be vaccinated in 7 days starting from 7 August, according to sources at the health directorate.
People will have to bring their national identity (NID) cards to receive the jab, the sources said, adding that ward councilors concerned or union parishad members will determine the vaccination centre in their respective wards.
Health officials will log the names of vaccine recipients on excel sheets and issue vaccine cards to them.
That vaccination reduces deaths is a proven fact, Dr Alamgir said, adding infections and deaths have increased in rural areas of the country due to the Delta variant of Covid-19.
"In order to inoculate more village people, Covid vaccines will be administered in the same way rural children are vaccinated through EPI (expanded programme on immunisation) campaigns. The health minister will make an announcement about this in a day or two."
Even though Covid shots were in short supply in the past four months, the government now thinks the crisis is no more there. Vaccines have started coming regularly and people are being jabbed as planned.
Calling upon everyone to take the coronavirus vaccine, Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Sunday said there is no alternative to vaccination for preventing Covid infections, because of which the government has planned to vaccinate 1 crore people a month.
The government has thus far arranged 21 crore Covid shots, the health minister added.
Minister Zahid Maleque further said the registration process would be simplified to bring village people under vaccination coverage.
Those who cannot use the "Surokkha" app will be able to get inoculated by showing their NID cards instead of online registration. If necessary, those names will be registered online later, he added.
Registration for the vaccine began in the country on 26 January this year when the minimum age limit for registration was 55 years for general citizens. Later, the age limit was brought down in phases and now it stands at 30 years.
The health minister, while addressing a programme on Saturday, said the vaccine would be administered to all citizens above the age of 18 in phases from now on to keep the country's educational institutions safe and bring most of the citizens under vaccination.
Already, instructions have been given on the Surokkha app on how to prioritize the registration of students above 18 years of age and family members of frontliners, he added.
So far, 2.12 crore doses of coronavirus vaccines have arrived in the country.
Bangladesh currently has 51.93 lakh doses of Moderna vaccine, 50,000 doses of Pfizer and 39.22 lakh doses of Sinopharm and 2.45 lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZenaca shots.
The health minister said the government currently has more than 1 crore doses of Covid vaccines in its stock. Another 2 crore doses will arrive within the next month.
"The government will receive about 21 crore doses by the beginning of next year – including some 3 crore doses from China, 7 crore from Russia, 7 crore Johnson & Johnson and 3 crore doses of AstraZeneca shots."
About 80% of the people of the country can be vaccinated with these, he continued.
Professor Nazmul Islam, spokesperson of the DGHS said the country is now administering Moderna vaccines in city corporation areas and Sinopharm shots outside the city corporations.
"We need to make the vaccination activities successful through the joint participation of all. Then, we can overcome the Covid-19 pandemic."
He also said the second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would be administered soon using the shots received from Japan.
Earlier, on 25 April this year, Bangladesh halted the first dose of Covid-19 vaccination drive due to a shortage of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses.
The mass vaccination campaign resumed on 1 July by giving vaccines to expatriate workers, medical and university students, and members of the law enforcement have been vaccinated on a priority basis.
Now on an average 50,000 people are being jabbed per day with Morderna, Pfizer and Sinopharm shots.
Since 27 January, 1.27 people have so far registered for the vaccine.
Already, 58.20 lakh people took two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, while 42.93 lakh took only one dose.
Already, 58.20 lakh people have taken two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, while 42.93 lakh others have taken one dose.
Besides, 4,547 people have received two doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, while 11.72 lakh others have received one dose. Some 50,217 people have taken one dose of the Pfizer jab and 138 received two doses, while 3.06 lakh people have taken one dose of Moderna vaccine.
Professor Sayedur Rahman, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told TBS that vaccinated people have a lower risk of death so people over the age of 55 need to be vaccinated quickly to save lives.