Bringing many parts of the Chattogram Hill Tracts under the six-day countrywide vaccination drive from 7 August will offer many challenges to overcome. No roads and almost zero mobile network coverage are the most daunting ones.
Take for six upazilas of Rangamati that are connected to the district town only by waterways. Some of the villages in Baghaichari, Bilaichhari, Jurachhari and Barkal upazila are so remote that the trip to the upazila headquarters takes two days.
"I still do not know whether it is possible to transport the vaccine doses maintaining the temperature from the upazila headquarters to the villages," said Parvez Chowdhury, upazila nirbahi officer of Bilaichhari.
Rangamati Civil Surgeon Dr Bipasha Khisa also agreed that giving shots to people in remote hilly areas will be very challenging. "All the ten Rangamati upazilas have some remote areas. Vaccine transportation maintaining the temperature required is the main challenge. We have targeted to vaccinate people in a ward in every union during the 7-12 August campaign."
Dr Nupur Kanti Das, civil surgeon of Khagrachari district, said, "There is no alternative to the door-to-door approach to inoculate the hilly people."
He also said they were preparing to cover a ward in every union.
Bandarban district Civil Surgeon Dr Aung Swi Prue Marma said a trip from the district headquarters to Thanchi's Remakri or Tindu takes two-three days.
"The only way to go there is to walk," he said, adding that it would not be possible to bring people of all areas under the vaccination coverage.
Ataul Gani Usmani, upazila nirbahi officer of Bandarban's Thanchi, told The Business Standard on Monday that the ward-level pandemic prevention committees had been dispatched to run vaccination awareness campaigns in remote Remakri and Tindu.
Mohammad Yamin Hossain, upazila nirbahi officer of Bandarban's Ruma, earlier told TBS that they were engaging the community heads in the campaign to expand vaccination outreach among the ethnic people.
According to the latest report of the Centre for Genocide Studies, Dhaka University, Rangamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban are among the ten lowest vaccinated districts in Bangladesh.
However, health officials of the three hill districts said the vaccination rates in district towns were satisfactory.
But since the remote areas have poor mobile network and mobile data service coverage, registrations for vaccines have been hitting a stumbling block since the vaccine rollout in February this year. As a result, the vaccination rate in remote hilly areas is almost zero.
According to the civil surgeon offices, around 52,000 people in Rangamati district received one or two doses of Covid-19 vaccine as of 1 August. Around 24,000 more people in the district have registered online for their first shots.
In Khagrachari district, 68,000 people received the first or second dose and 7,000 people are waiting to get immunised.
In Bandarban as of 1 August, 10,006 people got the first dose and 83 citizens are fully vaccinated. Bandarban district had 36,721 people registered online for inoculation until 1 August.