The countrywide Covid-19 vaccination campaign began on Sunday (Feb 7) with spontaneous participation for receiving vaccines from designated hospitals.
“The nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign began this morning... people are receiving vaccines from designated hospitals spontaneously,” Additional Director General of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Nasima Sultana told media.
The vaccination drive is underway at 50 hospitals in Dhaka city and 1005 hospitals outside the capital, she said, adding the immunization began at 8 a.m. and it will continue till 2.30 p.m.
But some hospitals will continue the vaccination programme throughout the day, the health official said.
The inoculation would be administered among people in government hospitals at upazila level while nearly four lakh people so far got them registered to be inoculated, she added.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque inaugurated the countrywide campaign through video conferencing.
DGHS director general Prof Dr Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam said the people will get the vaccine free of cost, meaning the government will bear all expenditures to vaccinate them.”
Bangladesh by now received five million doses of expected 30 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured by India’s Serum Institute apart from two more million jabs received as gift from the neighbouring country.
Bangladesh eventually is expected to get 68 million or 6.80 crore vaccines for 20 percent of its population or 3.40 crore people from the WHO, COVAX facility.
Officials said after initial lab testing, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were dispatched across the country to be preserved at Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) stores.
DGHS additional director general Professor Nasima Sultana said the frontline workers are to get the vaccines on priority basis in line with a list with officials, saying they included 452,027 government health workers and approved 600,000 private health workers.
They said 7,344 vaccine distribution teams each comprising six health workers were entrusted with the charge of vaccine distribution to be closely overseen by the Drug Administration.
The DGHS chief said 42,000 health workers and volunteers were trained as part of the nationwide vaccination drive while his office would issue regular vaccine distribution bulletins containing inoculation related information to all.
Five million or 50 lakh Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines reached Bangladesh on Jan 25 under a memorandum of understanding signed on Nov 5 and a subsequent tripartite agreement on Dec 13 among Bangladesh Government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd and the Serum Institute of India.
The agreement ensures availability of three crore Covid-19 vaccine doses in phases from the Serum Institute.
India, however, sent as gift two million doses on Jan 21 ahead of dispatching consignments under the agreement.
The other priority groups includes 210,000 freedom fighters, 546,620 frontline members of law enforcement agencies, 360,913 members of armed and civil defense forces, 50,000 officials and employees working in the offices which are indispensable for governing the state.
The list included 50,000 frontline media personnel, 178,298 elected representatives, 150,000 frontline employees of the city corporations and municipalities, 541,000 religious figures, 75,000 people engaged in funeral works, 400,000 staff engaged in emergency water, gas, sewerage, power, fire service and transport services.
The rests in the list are 150,000 land, river and air port workers, 120,000 expatriate unskilled workers, 400,000 district and upazila level government employees engaged in emergency public services, 197,621 bank employees, 625,000 low immunity people suffering from tuberculosis, AIDS and cancer, 11,639,631 elderly people, 21,863 players and 170,000 people from buffer, emergency and outbreak groups.
Officials earlier said the vaccine recipients priority list was prepared in line with WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) guidelines taking into consideration the Bangladesh context.
They said each person needs two doses of vaccines while one would be administered the second dose four weeks after receiving the first jab.
Professor Nasima said DGHS planned to carry out the vaccination campaign among 50 lakh people in the initial phase while roughly 50 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses would arrive each month in Bangladesh.
All front runners and mass people aged above 55 will get vaccine during the first phase of the nationwide drive, the health official said.
EPI director Dr Md Shamsul Haque said the facilities under his office could preserve 14 to 15 crore Covid-19 vaccine doses while each district level hospital has a capacity to preserve 4.25 lakh Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Besides, he said, each government hospital has five to ten ice freezers which have capacity to store nearly 71,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses.
Haque said the routine immunization programme would remain undisrupted during the nationwide campaign Covid-19 vaccination campaign.
He said health workers under EPI programme would be engaged with Covid-19 inoculation drive when the government would set up vaccination facilities outside hospitals applying “their previous vaccination experiences”.