Only 2 percent of readymade garments workers were able to get Covid-19 vaccines, found a survey done jointly by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling and Microfinance Opportunities.
Sixty-nine percent of workers said they were willing to get vaccinated if they were eligible to get the vaccine, said the report circulated by SANEM.
The organisations interviewed a pool of 1,285 workers over phone on April 23, 2021, and found that only an insignificant minority was vaccinated. The workers were from Chattogram, Dhaka city, Gazipur, Narayanganj, and Savar.
"On being asked whether they think they are eligible to get vaccinated, 36 percent of the respondents said they were eligible, 28 percent said they were not eligible, and 34 percent said they did not know if they were eligible," said the report done by SANEM and MFO.
Three-quarter of those eligible said they want to get vaccinated, while over 60 percent of those who were ineligible, or did not know if they were eligible, wanted to get vaccinated. But less than a quarter of them had information on how to gain access to a vaccination shot.
Even though transportation to and from factories was an important prerequisite given by the government for factories to operate amid Covid-19 restrictions, the survey found that only 4 percent of their respondents were using factory-provided transportation.
"This is indicating that not all factories took the necessary measures to ensure transportation to work for those workers who are reliant upon it," said the report.
The survey found that this vast unvaccinated section of the workforce has mostly been walking to work, with only 2 percent using buses to go to work.
Upon analysing the data of respondents who said they did not want to be vaccinated, it was found that nearly half were afraid of side effects and of dying from the vaccine. Seventeen percent said they would much rather rely on their religious faith to stay protected.
"The data clearly indicate that workers do not have access to adequate information related to Covid-19 immunisation. This is a concern because inability to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines will put millions of garment workers, who are employed in one of our most crucial industries, at risk," said the report.
In order to facilitate the recovery process of RMG production, export and the economy as a whole, factory owners, government officials, policymakers and advocacy groups will have to come together to prioritise the health and safety of workers, it added.
In July, the government had initially prohibited RMG workers from getting more than three days of Eid holidays so as to discourage them from leaving their workplaces and going to back to their hometowns. This decision was later withdrawn in face of protests.
Save for a brief period of time in March last year, RMG factories have remained open through multiple phases of lockdown of the economy and the country.
RMG workers were not in the priority list of people, and frontline workers, eligible for vaccines.