As the nationwide vaccination campaign progresses, the latest numbers suggest that over 2.5 million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Bangladesh over the course of 15 days. This is no small feat for our country, and the government and all involved authorities must be congratulated for the speedy and efficient procurement and rollout of vaccines. This is even more impressive when you compare the data to our neighbouring countries—while Pakistan has distributed only 0.03 doses of the vaccine per 100 of the population and India is at 0.87 doses per 100 people, Bangladesh has the highest rate of inoculation in the region, with 1.53 doses per 100 of the population.
However, we must also remember that given our large population, there is still a long way to go. So far, only around 1.95 percent of the targeted 130 million have been vaccinated. As we go forward, we must ensure that the vaccines are reaching the people who need it the most—the elderly, frontline workers, and people with underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to Covid-19.
There are already worries that online registration has made it harder for people from disadvantaged backgrounds to sign up for the vaccines. While provisions have been made for community health clinics to help with this registration, are people in rural and remote areas being able to access this? Is there enough awareness surrounding the importance of getting vaccinated, especially in underprivileged and difficult-to-reach areas? A report in this daily from last week showed how the majority of vaccine uptake was still concentrated in urban areas, and that only a third of those vaccinated were women. Are there similar disparities in terms of economic, religious and ethnic backgrounds, and are there any plans in place to tackle these disparities and make access to vaccines more equitable?
While we applaud the authorities on the success of the vaccination drive in Bangladesh, we also hope that they will seriously take these issues into consideration and ensure that no one who needs a vaccine is excluded from the process. At the same time, although positivity rates are dropping, we must remember that the pandemic is not yet over, and around 400 people are still being infected every day in Bangladesh. Despite the success of our vaccination programme, we must ensure that safety protocols continue to be in place and people continue to take precautions such as wearing masks, especially in public spaces.