Bangladesh has been giving Covid-19 jabs to citizens aged over 18 years since the country got access to the doses, and now, the government is planning to inoculate children aged over 12 years with Pfizer and Moderna shots.
The announcement – made by Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque on Saturday – came as the Covid-19 positivity rate dropped below 10% after three months and schools are about to be reopened across the country.
Visiting the Nursing and Midwifery examination centre at Tejgaon Women's High School in Dhaka, the minister told reporters, "Age is a determinant factor when it comes to vaccinating children.
"The World Health Organisation (WHO) says any vaccine can be given to people over the age of 18 years. But we have to follow the international standard to vaccinate children. Some countries, especially the US and UK are inoculating children over the age of 12 years with Pfizer and Moderna shots, and we want to follow in their footsteps."
He added that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children aged between 12 and 15 years.
Providing more details, Maleque said, "We will hold an inter-ministerial meeting on Sunday to make a decision on how to return young children safely back to school, and how to inoculate them against Covid-19. We will also discuss how to manage the overall process."
The government is expected to reopen all educational institutions across the country on 12 September, including the medical colleges.
Adding that more than 80% medical students have received inoculations, the health minister said, "We will bring every learner – including those who are not medical students – under the vaccine coverage.
"Many have already received the jab, and depending on the availability of shots, everyone will get their doses. We will make a decision regarding this particular issue at Sunday's inter-ministerial meeting."
The government has made a policy decision to procure 16.5 crore doses of the Covid-19 vaccines, the minister told reporters.
He continued, "I am optimistic that Bangladesh will receive these doses by the next December or January. We will be able to bring every teacher and student under the vaccine coverage afterwards.
"Besides, we presently have enough vaccines to provide second jabs to citizens who took the first shot during the 7-12 August vaccination campaign."
Covid positivity rate below 10% after 3 months
Bangladesh reported 61 more deaths and 1,743 new cases in the 24-hour period till Saturday 8am. In comparison, the country had reported 1,637 infections on 12 June and 60 deaths on 16 June.
Moreover, the positivity rate has dropped below 10% during the 24-hour period for the first time since 3 June. After testing 17,750 samples, health officials confirmed a 9.82% positivity rate on Saturday.
The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), considers districts with a positivity rate of 10% and above as "high risk," those with 5-9% as "medium risk," and below 5% as "low risk."
With the latest additions, the death toll has reached 26,493 and the infection tally climbed to 15,12,026 in the country.