Nearly one-third of the people surveyed in rural and urban areas and slums in the country said they did not know about the Covid-19 vaccine registration process, reveals a recent study conducted by the Brac Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD), Brac University.
Many people who knew were unsure about their eligibility and so did not register, said the BIGD researchers at a webinar titled "Covid-19 Vaccination: Willingness and Practice in Bangladesh" on Thursday.
The study analysed data from three phone surveys conducted over various periods of time from late January to the end of March 2021, with the objective of examining the people's willingness to be vaccinated in Bangladesh on a national level. The study also focused on the youth and urban slum residents.
The researchers found that people living across the country showed high willingness (82% of 2,731 respondents) to be vaccinated in early February 2021, when the nationwide vaccination programme was launched in Bangladesh.
The people's willingness to be vaccinated was surprisingly higher in rural areas compared to the urban areas – 84% and 78% respectively.
However, many respondents in the rural areas and urban slums showed unwillingness to take the vaccine for various reasons.
Majority of the respondents who were unwilling to be vaccinated said they do not feel that vaccination is necessary. This notion was most prevalent among urban slum dwellers.
"The main reasons for the unwillingness to take vaccine were that people thought they did not need it, they did not trust it, were not sure of its effectiveness, feared its side effects like fever, pain etc, were not sure about safety, did not trust the government, and their religious beliefs," said Mehnaz Rabbani, lead, Research for Policy and Governance (RPG) at BIGD.
Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BIGD, said, "Our research has identified the urban slum as 'hotspot' and youth as target populations to focus on during vaccine registration communications. As we delve deeper, there will soon be a need for implementation of the researches on mass vaccination and the BIGD is very interested in being a part of these studies."
Diana Mitlin, professor of Global Urbanism at Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, said, "We know that those who live in informal settlements are often badly treated, often not getting the services they need, leading to a history of suspicion."
"The importance of messaging and creating excitement around health services seems to be important especially in reducing the anxiety and negative concerns around vaccination and can be a scope for improving relationship of these communities with the government," she added.
Avinno Faruk and Ishmam Al Quddus, research associates at the BIGD, presented the findings from the study at the webinar.
With the launch of the nationwide vaccination program in Bangladesh on 7 February 2021, the country—intending to immunize 80% of the population in three phases—is gearing up to take the next step in combating the novel coronavirus.
"It was a government decision for us to slow down registration communication, since we are currently facing a vaccine shortage. We will start proper communications once we can manage the supply side constraint," Dr Shakila Sultana, deputy program manager, Expanded Program on Immunisation (EPI), Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said at the event.