The number of people taking the coronavirus vaccine is on a gradual fall with both daily cases and deaths spiralling with the resurgence in Covid-19 infection.
Public health experts said more people should be inoculated immediately to control the virus resurgence as the vaccine is the first and foremost means of curbing infections.
In the 24 hours till Tuesday morning, 1,719 people tested positive for Covid-19, while the infection rate stood at 8.29%. During the past 24 hours, the country also reported 26 deaths.
However, people are still speculating about how much protection the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers, especially in light of the recent vaccination suspension by some countries.
For instance, Dhaka's Rayer Bazar resident Ahsan Habib does not want to take the first shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine now as he says many are getting infected by Covid-19 even after being immunised.
Referring to the vaccination halt by some countries, he said he would observe the situation for a while and then decide whether he would take it.
Meanwhile, since a wait-and-see situation prevails, the country's mass vaccination campaign faces a major setback while the infection rate shows an uptrend. Only 94,437 citizens took Covid shots on Tuesday across the country. The daily vaccination figure was 226,902 just a month ago.
Professor Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, said people were turning away from vaccination owing to rumours such as those that speak of vaccines not giving protection, vaccinated people developing blood clots and people getting infected after vaccination.
Professor Nazrul said more people needed to be immunised immediately. "The health directorate should counteract the rumours with accurate information," he noted.
Echoing the virologist, Covid-19 pandemic control consultant at the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research Dr M Mushtuq Husain said the death rate could not be capped unless more people were vaccinated immediately.
He said the country had not yet vaccinated 3% of the population. There should be awareness campaigns to convince people about the immunisation campaign.
"Apart from vaccination, people will have to maintain social distancing and follow health safety measures," Dr Mushtuq told The Business Standard.
The health directorate said it planned vaccination by mobile teams in rural Bangladesh to bring more people under immunisation coverage.
"Although the vaccination turnout in cities is good, people in rural areas are not taking the shots. If required, we will shift the vaccination centres to the union level to widen the vaccination coverage," said Chattogram Civil Surgeon Dr Sheikh Fazle Rabbi.
"After the registration at union medical centres, our mobile teams will reach out to people at their homes and administer the shots," he added.
Vaccination turnout declining
The country launched mass inoculation on 7 February. In the first week of the campaign, on average 1.29 lakh people took the shots per day.
The turnout rose to 2.33 lakh per day in the second week. On 18 February, more than 2.61 lakh people were vaccinated – the single-day highest so far.
Vaccination turnout started to plummet from the third week, and had dropped below 1 lakh by the end of the fourth week. On 13 March, only 86,000 people were vaccinated.
The infection rate fell below 2% in February, but it started rising in March. Now the daily infection is more than 8% with no sign of slowing down.
No lockdown plan for now
Director General of the Health Directorate Professor Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam Tuesday said the government currently did not have any plan to impose a lockdown.
"But instructions have been given to limit gatherings at restaurants, public transports and tourist spots," he said.
Professor Khurshid Alam said the authorities had charted safety measures to celebrate Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary. Besides, Bangladesh returnees had been asked to maintain quarantine strictly.
He said though the capital had an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) crisis, most general beds and ICUs were empty in district headquarters. He urged virus patients to avail treatment in their respective regions instead of rushing to the capital.