Published on 12:00 AM, August 05, 2021

Special vaccine drive hits a major snag: Cut down to 1 day from 6 due to shortage of jabs

The mass inoculation campaign against Covid-19 in Bangladesh began on February 7, 2021. Photo: Amran Hossain

A special Covid-19 mass inoculation drive, mainly aimed at vaccinating rural people at the union level, has suffered a major setback just days before it was scheduled to begin on Saturday.

Due to a shortage of vaccines, the government last night decided to cut the duration of the campaign to one day from six.

The government had earlier planned to administer around one crore doses during those six days, but the number of the jabs administered will now become significantly lower.

"The duration of the vaccination drive, originally August 7-12, has been shortened due to shortage of jabs. For the time being, the drive will take place only on August 7 [Saturday].  Based on prior registration, 300 people will be jabbed at each centre. The elderly, women and people with disabilities will get priority," a top government official said after the decision was made at a high-profile meeting last night.

"We tried very hard, but we can't change the decision," said the official.

There are 4,553 unions, 328 municipalities and 12 city corporations in the country.

There will be three vaccination booths in every union and vaccines will be administered from those centres only, said an official who attended the meeting last night.

The drive hit the snag even though the government had repeatedly said it had enough stock of vaccines.

The health minister and top health officials had said that the special campaign would vaccinate at least one crore people in those six days.

Health officials said the government had around one crore shots in stock.

An official who attended the meeting said people in the union digital centres would assist the government in completing the registration before the start of the vaccination drive.

"Six hundred people of each union will be vaccinated every day during the mass campaign," Prof Shamsul Haque, line director of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told The Daily Star.

The registration will be done at digital centres in unions and it will begin before Saturday. Vaccine recipients would be taken to the centres with the help of representatives from local government bodies.

"The meeting has decided that the registration will be done prior to the vaccination. Those without National Identification [NID] cards can get them with the help of the upazila election office," said SM Tariqul Islam, deputy commissioner of Gazipur.

Muhammad Adbul Latif, deputy commissioner of Manikganj, said it was decided that only those completing the registration would get the doses on the first day of the campaign on Saturday. "Those who don't have NID cards will also get the shots using different ways."

He said 39,200 people are likely to be vaccinated on Saturday in his district, but the number could change on the second and other days of the six-day campaign.

Officials from the government's ICT division said they were working on the registration process that included on-spot registration. "People will be able to complete on-spot registrations and get the shot immediately," said an ICT division official.

Besides, the meeting decided that local government representatives would also hand tokens to specific people in their areas and those with the tokens would be jabbed on specific days, said the official, adding, "This decision was made so that there is no chaos in the vaccination centres."

Bangladesh recorded 13,09,910 Covid cases and 21,638 deaths as of yesterday. Over 79 percent of those who died were aged over 50.

The special vaccination drive is taken mainly to vaccinate the elderly people, said officials.

The country has so far vaccinated around 1.40 crore people. And only around 44 lakh of them got both the first and second shots.

According to the World Health Organization, at least 80 percent of the population has to be inoculated to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Currently, China's Sinopharm vaccine doses are being administered in rural areas and district towns while the Moderna vaccine in city corporation areas.

Mass inoculation against Covid-19 had remained suspended for over two months due to a shortage of doses. Bangladesh suspended administering the first dose of the vaccine on April 26. Registration of people for vaccination was suspended nine days later.

The government resumed administering the first dose on June 19 on a limited scale and then gradually expanded it.