With more than 1% of the population immunised in 12 days, Bangladesh outshines its South Asia neighbours except the Maldives in Covid-19 vaccination.
Experts say since Bangladesh has been experiencing an infection rate below 5% for more than four weeks – the criterion to lower the virus spread emergency level from pandemic to epidemic – the finish line will not be too far if the inoculation coverage is widened rapidly.
As the 54th country, Bangladesh inaugurated its mass vaccination campaign on 27 January though the immunisation was officially rolled out on 7 February.
Around 21 lakh people received the first dose of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine until Thursday – the last vaccination date before a three-day public holiday. On top of this, 32.94 lakh people have completed their registration for the shots as of 21 January afternoon.
Bangladesh will immunise 60 lakh people in the first month of the mass inoculation drive. The country is seeking to inoculate 80% of its population of around 17 crore, with each person getting two doses administered eight weeks apart.
The country already has a global reputation for its success in expanded programmes on immunisation (EPI) for children, and the previous experience and logistics seem to be helping Bangladesh towards the Covid vaccination success.
As of 20 February, Bangladesh administered 1.26 doses per 100 people while the worldwide immunisation rate stood at 2.6 doses.
Island state the Maldives has so far immunised 9.26% of its population – the highest in South Asia. But, the country's high immunisation rate is due to its only 5 lakh population with 50,000 doses of available Covid vaccine.
Meanwhile, public health experts said the virus has become endemic in the country since the infection rate remains below 5% for more than four weeks. The rate is currently at 2.33%.
Noted virologist Professor Nazrul Islam, also a member of the national committee on Covid-19, said Bangladesh will be able to control novel coronavirus sooner than others if more people are rapidly brought under the vaccination campaign.
The inoculation is being carried out at 1,005 centres across the country simultaneously. Except for the weekends, 2,400 teams are inoculating the citizens from 8:00 am to 2:30pm every day.
They're waiting for the second shot
Police Sergeant Md Didarul Islam, 28, took the first shot of the vaccine on 27 January at the inauguration of the vaccination. He took a day off after the inoculation since he felt slightly feverish.
He returned to work as his temperature went down just after taking paracetamol. Didarul said he is completely fine since then. He said 90% of his colleagues in Dhaka's Motijheel zone have already taken the vaccine.
Like the cop, journalist Masud Raihan Palash took the shot on the first day. Palash returned to work just after the vaccination as he did not feel any issue.
"I am completely okay. I was informed I will be given the second dose on 28 March, and I am waiting for that," he told TBS.
Professor Dr Nazmul Islam, director (communicable disease control) and health directorate spokesperson, told TBS that none of the 26 people who received the vaccine on the first day reported any severe side effect.
Second batch of vaccine due Monday
Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, said 20-30 lakh doses of Covid vaccine would arrive in the country on 22 February from the Serum Institute of India.
Health directorate Director General Professor ABM Khurshid Alam on Sunday evening told The Business Standard that 20 lakh shots will arrive in Dhaka on Monday.
But on Sunday afternoon, Beximco Pharma's Chief Operating Officer Rabbur Reza confirmed TBS about the second lot.
The country started the vaccination with 70 lakh doses – 50 lakh doses purchased and 20 lakh as a gift from India. According to the 3-crore-dose purchase agreement, India's Serum will supply Bangladesh 50 lakh shots per month.