Swapan Dhar (55), a resident of Balrampur village in Khaliajuriupazila in Netrokona, did not get Covid-19 vaccine even though he stood in a queue on the day the vaccine was administered on 7 August as part of the union level campaign.
Now he has to go to the upazila health centre to get the vaccine, but going there by trawler will cost him more than Tk200. He has therefore decided to wait for the vaccination when it is given again in his union.
Like Swapan, many other residents of the haor areas are unwilling to go through the tortuous journey to the upazila health centres to take the Covid-19 vaccine.
Experts said the rate of Covid-19 vaccination in the haor areas is low due to various reasons, including difficulties in travelling, registration complications and lack of awareness.
Swapan Dhar told The Business Standard, "On 7 August, many people, including me, came back without getting vaccinated. I will try again if the vaccine is given at the union level. It will cost a lot of money to go to the upazila with the whole family to get the vaccine, so I will not go to the upazila for the vaccine for now."
Zafar Ali (65) of Sullahupazila of Sunamganjtoo has not taken the Covid-19 vaccine as he did not want to go to the upazila health centre.
He told The Business Standard, "I want to take the Covid-19 vaccine, but it is very difficult to go to the upazila sadar. It will cost Tk200-250 to go there by boat. It would have been better if we could get vaccinated in the union."
There are about 95 haors in Sunamganj district. So far only 10.84% of the total population in the district has received one dose, while 3.87% have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
In Netrokona, 10.67% of people received one dose and 4.03% received two doses of the vaccine.
There are 97 haors in Kishoreganj district. Only 9.83% of the people in the district have received one dose and 3.4% people have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The government conducted a campaign on August 7-12 to vaccinate more people across the country quickly.
According to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), more than 3.5 lakh people took the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in Netrokona, Kishoreganj and Sunamganjin the six days of the campaign.
On the first day of the campaign on 7 August, 56,448 people took the first dose of the vaccine in Sunamganj. Currently, around 3,000 are taking vaccines there every day.
The number of people receiving the Covid-19 vaccine per day has come down to 2,000-3,000 in other districts characterised by haor areas.
Sunamganj Civil Surgeon Dr Shams Uddin told The Business Standard, "People have become more interested in getting vaccinated after the campaign. Travel and registration are a problem for people in the haor areas where getting the vaccine is concerned. We will vaccinate people at the union level again if we get more doses."
The three upazilas of Netrokona'shaor areas are Khaliajuri, Madan and Mohanganj. The total population of these three upazilas is 4.34 lakh. Of these, only 63,000 have registered to get vaccinated. Of those registered, 22,000 have so far taken only the first dose of the vaccine, while only 10,000 people have received two doses of it.
The number of people who have been vaccinated in these three upazilas is less than that in some other upazilas. Khaliajuri and Madanupazilas have the lowest number of vaccinated people among these upazilas.
KhaliajuriUpazila Health and Family Planning Officer DrAtaulGaniOsmani told TBS, "People in the backward areas are less aware and there is a communication crisis too. People have to travel by trawler if they have to go to the upazila sadar from the unions and it costs some money."
"Besides, people also face some complications in the registration process. Not all areas have computer and internet facilities. There are also power cuts. However, the number of people interested in vaccination is increasing day by day compared to the earlier days of the vaccination campaign," he said.
Madan Upazila Health and Family Planning Officer DrHasanul Hossain said, "People were less interested in getting vaccinated in the first two months. Currently, the number of interested people is growing gradually. We are making people get interested in vaccination through publicity."
Netrokona Civil Surgeon DrSelim Mia told TBS, "There has been little response to vaccinations in Khaliajuri, Madan, and Mohanganjupazilas. A weak transportation system is the reason behind that. Another mass vaccination programme can be undertaken in September. Maybe we will get more response at that time."
DGHS spokesperson Professor Nazmul Islam told TBS, "We are working to bring all marginalised people under the vaccination programme, not just the people in the haor areas. Elderly people in the villages will be vaccinated on a priority basis. There are plans to administer the vaccine at the union level again if we get more doses."
Dr Ahmed Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, convener of Bangladesh Health Watch, told TBS, "People of the haor areas do not want to go to the vaccination centres in the upazila health centres due to travel costs and time constraints. The government has to take the responsibility of delivering the vaccine to them. It has to vaccinate people by setting up vaccination centers in the small villages of the haor areas."
"In this case, the government can also involve NGOs because they have experience in working with marginalised people," he added.
A Collaboration between The Business Standard and Bangladesh Health Watch