Mohammad Raju, 30, a bus driver on Dhaka-Narayanganj route, now regularly goes to work as transport services resumed after prolonged restrictions amid the pandemic.
But he has yet to get a vaccine shot because he does not know how to register for that.
"It is a long and complex process for me to get vaccinated against coronavirus. It is essential to register on a smartphone using a national identity card and wait for a message with a vaccination date. I cannot do that and have remained unjabbed. It would be very convenient for us if there are vaccination arrangements at bus terminals," Raju told The Business Standard.
"I went to a centre with my NID for a walk-in registration but did not get the shot," he added.
Rickshaw puller Abdul Gani, 55, has not been inoculated yet either as he also finds the registration process too complex.
"I do not have a smartphone. I also could not receive a vaccine dose through a walk-in registration as my NID is not with me and I have not gone to my village home in Khulna for the last three months," Gani also said.
Like Raju and Gani, many transport workers have still remained unjabbed owing to complications, as they claim, in the registration process.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, 50 lakh workers are involved in the country's transport sector. But, no one has any data on how many of them have so far been vaccinated.
Seeking anonymity, a leader of transport workers told TBS that most transport workers do not have NID cards and those with NIDs do not know how to register to get vaccine shots. That is why a very few workers have been vaccinated against coronavirus on their own initiative.
Omar Faruque, a bus driver on the Hatirjheel route in the capital, told TBS that transport workers who were at home in lockdowns were vaccinated through on-the-spot registration showing NIDs in their respective areas. But, he did not get the vaccine as he was in Dhaka.
Abdul Jabbar, general secretary of Dhaka district Truck, Tank-lorry, Covered Van Workers' Union, said, "Our workers are not getting vaccine jabs as 90% of them are uneducated and do not know how to register to get vaccinated. Many have been deceived into paying for the vaccine shots."
There are about 10 lakh truck workers in the country and not even 1% of them have yet been vaccinated, he added.
After failing to register online, many workers went to ward vaccination centres with birth registration cards, but they were turned away on excuses that they are not voters of those wards, he also said.
Transport workers are interested in getting Covid-19 vaccine, but they are unable to get vaccinated owing to registration complications. So, we request that the government vaccinate our workers by setting up centres at terminals like in garment factories, Jabbar said.
Garment workers have been receiving vaccine shots in their respective workplaces on a priority basis since July under the supervision of civil surgeons. More than 50,000 garment workers have so far received vaccine doses.
Experts say Covid-19 transmission risk on public transport is much higher. Transport workers interact with a lot of people a day, so 100% of such workers need to be vaccinated on a priority basis to protect them and passengers.
Dr AM Zakir Hussain, chair of the Thematic Group on Vaccination of Bangladesh Health Watch and former director of Primary Health Care & Disease Control, DGHS, told TBS that from bus drivers, conductors and helpers, to CNG-run auto-rickshaw drivers and rickshaw pullers, all have at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 and spreading infections than others.
The government has resumed public transport services. So it is the responsibility of the government to bring transport workers under vaccination on a priority basis, he also said.
While asked about the way to ease the registration process for vaccination, Dr Zakir said transport workers should be allowed for walk-in registration for vaccination with any ID card that verifies their identity. Vaccination centres need to be set inside terminals too.
Professor Nazmul Islam, spokesperson at the health directorate, said, "We are now discussing ways to vaccinate transport workers. Transport owners and workers' leaders also can talk to the ICT ministry to find a way to facilitate vaccination of their workers."
"We will do everything possible to ensure vaccination of transport workers in a smooth way," he added.
Shahjahan Khan, president of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, told TBS, "We have already proposed that the government bring transport workers under vaccination. We also want to make arrangements to vaccinate transport workers at terminals. Transport workers come in contact with many people, so it is important to get them vaccinated quickly."
"We will take immediate action to ensure that transport workers receive vaccine shots as soon as possible," he added.
A Collaboration between The Business Standard and Bangladesh Health Watch