Coronavirus test rate among people belonging to the low-income bracket was much lower than others. The group now shows reluctance to Covid-19 vaccine too.
People who are taking Covid shots at vaccine centres in Dhaka mostly belong to the upper and middle classes. The centres hardly see the poor turning up to receive inoculation.
But health experts have advocated for prompt vaccination of mass people – regardless of their classes – to achieve herd immunity.
They say misconception about the vaccine – that poor people do not get infected – and the lack of scope for online registration have led to low rates of vaccination among the poor.
Brigadier General Nazmul Haque, director of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, told The Business Standard that people who are quite educated are coming for the vaccine as the online registration prior to the immunisation is a must.
"We observed that marginalised people are not coming for the shots. Vaccination data of the city corporation centre may provide a better picture," he added.
Jamal Uddin, 70, is a rickshaw-puller in Dhaka. Asked if he would take the Covid-19 vaccine, Jamal said he would die whenever his time would come, and that the vaccine cannot prevent death.
"Poor people do not get infected, rather the rich get infected by the virus. Let them take it," he commented.
There is no available data about how many people from which classes have taken the vaccine.
Two Dhaka city corporations say poor people usually go to the city corporations-run maternity centres to avail healthcare facilities. Those centres, which have been turned into vaccination facilities, have witnessed poor turnout since the country launched mass immunisation.
Only 415 people took the Covid vaccine at four maternity centres in Dhaka Sunday. Since 7 February, 2,024 people have been vaccinated at these centres.
Lt Col Golam Mostafa Sarwar, deputy chief health officer of Dhaka North, told TBS that they were also aware of the low vaccination rate among the poor.
"We visit the vaccination centres every day. Vaccine turnout of illiterate or low-income people is very low," he said.
Professor Nazrul Islam, a noted virologist and a member of the government's technical advisory committee on Covid-19, thinks mass campaign is needed to make people interested about the immunisation.
"They will have to be counselled. At the same time, the registration needs to be made easier," he said.
Professor Nazrul noted that the pandemic situation in Bangladesh is much better than in other countries and proper immunisation could improve the situation further.
"Herd immunity will elude us if the poor remain out of vaccination. So, everyone should be made eager to get the shot," he added.
Professor Mizanur Rahman, director of Management Information System of the health directorate, said they were working to get women and the marginalised covered by the mass immunisation. Mizanur said the registration will also be made easier.
Bangladesh vaccinated 1,69,353 people on Sunday – the eighth day of the nationwide Covid-19 vaccination drive. In the capital, 22,982 people were vaccinated.
The country has vaccinated 906,033 people since the campaign began on February 7. The vaccination is being held at 1,015 hospitals across the country, including 50 in the capital.
Bangladesh plans to inoculate 35 lakh people in the first month of vaccination. Health directorate said the vaccine turnout is growing everyday as at least 17.46 lakh people registered until 6pm Sunday.
Dhaka Civil Surgeon Abu Hussain Md Moinul Ahsan told TBS low vaccination rate among the poor was one of the major challenges for them.
"I have issued a letter seeking information about unions who are getting less vaccine registration. From Monday, I will strengthen the monitoring and ask the upazila nirbahi officers to introduce on-spot registration at the centres," he added.
Moinul Ahsan said temporary registration camps will also be set up so that poor people can register easily.