The national Covid-19 vaccination drive has gained pace, with more than seven lakh people receiving the shots in the first week of the rollout. However, women are lagging far behind men in getting the inoculation.
So far, merely 2,23,059 women have received the first doses of the shots, compared to 5,13,621 men.
On Saturday, the seventh day of the inoculation drive, the jab was given to 194,371 people – including 127,043 men and 67,328 women – according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
Experts say rumours, fears and a lower number of women in various categories given priority for vaccines are among the reasons behind the low rate of vaccination among females.
In addition, due to the patriarchal system, in many cases women are not allowed to receive the shots without the permission of men.
Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of the Management Information System at the DGHS, told The Business Standard (TBS) that men remain outside their homes compared to women because of work and employment.
"For this reason, they are easily going to vaccination centres and getting vaccinated. In our country, women are still dependent on men and they have to go to vaccine centres with a male," he added.
Mizanur Rahman further said, "In our country, the number of men affected and killed by Covid-19 is bigger than for women. So, women are less interested in getting vaccinated. But we call on everyone to take the vaccine when the time comes. We will run a campaign to make women interested in being vaccinated."
Some 7,36,680 people have so far received their first doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 after the immunisation drive started on 7 February across the country. The government says it has the capacity to vaccinate more than 3.60 lakh people per day.
The DGHS said the highest number of single-day turnout was 2,04,540 on Thursday, while the number of vaccine recipients was: 31,160 on Sunday, 46,509 on Monday, 1,01,082 on Tuesday, and 1,58,451 on Wednesday.
On the seventh day, 31 recipients reported minor side effects after getting their shots.
The country plans to immunise 35 lakh people in the first phase of the inoculation which will continue till 7 March.
The country is currently vaccinating 40-year-olds and people in 19 categories, including frontliners. Among the frontliners, the number of doctors to have received vaccines is higher than nurses at different hospitals. Very few nurses in different hospitals have been vaccinated as of now.
Doctors said that the nursing society and the community should come forward to motivate nurses to get vaccinated.
"Every year, 32 lakh women get pregnant in the country. In other words, the same number of pregnant women and lactating mothers are out of the vaccination. It is also a reason for a lower rate of vaccine recipients among women," Professor Rowshon Ara Begum, a noted gynaecologist and a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told TBS.
She said that women are reluctant to take the novel coronavirus vaccine because of rumours that it could lead to infertility. "That's not true. Vaccines have no link with infertility."
The eminent gynaecologist further said, with the exception of pregnant and lactating mothers, newlyweds over 18 years of age or those who are planning to have a baby should be vaccinated now.
"So that she can be safe later in her pregnancy. Because it is not yet known how long the [novel] coronavirus infection will last," she added.
Spot registration for the elderly to start soon: Health Secretary
Elderly citizens will soon be allowed to register for vaccine shots at inoculation centres, says Health Secretary Abdul Mannan.
That will also encourage rural people to get vaccinated, he said while visiting the vaccination centre at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University on Saturday.
Abdul Mannan said, "So far, 14 lakh people have registered for vaccine doses. We will assess the statistics once 35 lakh people have been vaccinated. If rural people are less interested in taking vaccine shots, we will have to motivate them."
"Elderly people with special needs will be signed up on the spot with their national ID cards. We are thinking of taking such a decision," Mannan said.
Earlier, on 11 February, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, "As our registration system is performing well, we are suspending on-spot registration from now on."
"Now there is no option for on-spot registrations, to avoid crowds and ensure fair vaccine management. From now on, one has to successfully complete online registration for getting the jabs," he clarified.