Special Vaccine Drive: Now a trial run tomorrow

The last-minute retreat regarding the special vaccination drive has exposed the lack of coordination and planning on the government's part, experts said.

It may also put the government in a credibility crisis and could make people lose interest in taking Covid-19 jabs, they said.

As part of the special drive, the government had planned to inoculate around one crore people in six days from August 7. But it held back its decision and decided to conduct a trial instead due to a shortage of vaccines. 

Field-level officials have already started preparing for the trial run. 

Tamijul Islam Khan, deputy commissioner of Jashore, yesterday told The Daily Star that he was instructed to conduct the trial run on August 7 and the main special vaccination campaign will begin on August 14.

He said 600 doses will be administered in each of the 93 unions and 1,800 in the district's municipality area on August 7.

"People are now keen on getting vaccinated and registering on the Surokkha app." 

Habiganj DC Ishrat Jahan said they are prepared to inoculate around 50,000 people in the district on Saturday. 

The special drive is mainly aimed at vaccinating the elderly and people in rural areas. 

On Wednesday, a high-profile meeting, with the prime minister's principal secretary in the chair, decided to shorten the duration of the special vaccination drive from six days to one day due to a shortage of jabs. 

Professor Dr Be-Nazir Ahmed, a former DGHS director, said, "The last-minute change in decision exposed the government's poor planning. If it [the government] had done its homework, it would not have retreated from the decision." 

Ahmed, also a member of the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), said such abrupt changes in decisions will call the credibility of the government into question. 

"Vaccination is a serious issue and any sort of decision in this regard should be well thought out." 

Prof Muzaherul Huq, a former adviser to WHO South-East Asia region, said a strategic plan must be framed to achieve any target. 

"But it seems the government lacked proper planning and preparation before coming up with the announcement of vaccinating one crore in six days." 

"Since the government has one crore vaccines in hand, if it inoculates the whole doses then the regular vaccine campaign will be hampered. Besides, the second dose of that one crore people will be uncertain." 

He, however, said the one-day trial run will help the government gather experience before launching the special drive. 

The country has so far vaccinated around 1.44 crore people. And only around 44 lakh of them received both doses. 

According to the World Health Organization, at least 80 percent of the population has to be inoculated to contain the spread of coronavirus. In Bangladesh's context, around 12 crore people must be vaccinated in this regard.

Bangladesh so far has 2.55 crore vaccine doses of different brands -- 1.19 crore Oxford-AstraZeneca, 81 lakh Sinopharm, 55 lakh Moderna and 1.06 lakh Pfizer.    

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

Contacted, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said trial run will allow the government to identify the problems and fix those accordingly before the main drive. 

"We will resume vaccination in the rural areas before August 14 if we get enough vaccines in hand." 

The minister said they will not administer all the shots at the same time and will keep half of them for second doses.

"As the supply of Sinopharm is smooth, we may use more than half of what we have in hand. By that time, we will receive more vaccines from China." 

He said the special vaccination campaign was to raise awareness about vaccination among people, especially those living in rural areas. 

"We are, to some extent, successful in raising awareness. Already more than 30 lakh people have taken vaccines in the last 10 days. This was thanks to our campaign." 

The health minister said one of the challenges was manpower. 

"Four types of vaccines were administered in the existing centres and that required huge manpower. To launch it in rural areas, we will need more, but we have constraints. So, we have to keep that in mind."

Bangladesh, till yesterday, recorded 13,22,654 Covid-19 cases and 21,902 deaths. Over 79 percent of those who died were over 50. 

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