The number of people taking the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine has been low during the special campaigns. On 28 September, a total of 6,625,000 people received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. They were scheduled to get their second jab on 28 October.

On that day some 5,444,000 were vaccinated with the second dose. It means about 2.3 million people or 17 per cent of the first dose receivers have not taken the second dose.

There have been questions regarding the vaccine management system as a large number of people skipped their second jab. The experts say there are flaws in the government's vaccine related campaigns. People are not getting the right information about the vaccine either. Probably, people’s urge to get vaccinated has reduced with the decline in the coronavirus transmission rate in the country.

Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed, director of the Disease Control Unit at Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), told Prothom Alo, “The vaccine related campaigns have been relaxed in recent times. Many of the people do not even know when they are to be vaccinated. Besides, many might have been thinking that there is no need to get vaccinated anymore as the transmission of the virus is declining.”

In the meantime, some14, 740,017 people are waiting for the second dose after administering the first dose of the vaccine. Besides, more than 16.3 million have been waiting for the first dose after registering for the vaccine.

The vaccination drive for the children aged between 12 to 17 years is scheduled to start from 1 November. It would require extra manpower. This could result in a further delay in the vaccination of the people who had already registered, the experts believe.

The detection rate as compared to the number of sample tests has been below two per cent for the past few weeks as well as the number of daily casualties have been below 10.

Complications surrounding the second dose

To expedite the vaccination drive, the government organised two special campaigns besides the regular vaccination activities. The first special campaign was held on 7 August. The second campaign was held on 28 September on the occasion of the prime minister's birthday.

The DGHS had a target to vaccinate as many as 8 million people during the special campaign. On 28 and 29 September, the government administered the first dose of Sinopharm vaccine to some 7,811,216 people. Of them, some 6,625,123 people were vaccinated on 28 September.

Apart from the regular vaccination centres, a vaccine booth had been set up in 4,600 unions, 1,054 pourashava (municipal) wards and 433 wards under the 12 city corporations.

To maintain the effectiveness of the Sinopharm vaccine, one must be vaccinated within four weeks after getting the first dose. The DGHS even said that all the people, who were vaccinated with the first dose on 28 and 29 November could get the second dose on 28 October. However, not every one of them came to get their jabs. More than 2.3 million people did not show up at the vaccination centres that day.

The scenario was the same in all the districts. For example, some 85,900 people took the first dose in Faridpur district on 28 September. But on 28 October, a total of 80,903 received the second dose, which means about six per cent people skipped their second jab. Nationally, the number of such people is more than 17 per cent.

A health and family planning officer of an upazila in Khulna said they could not administer the second dose in some unions due to the regular Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) related activities on Thursday. It will be administered on Saturday.

A civil surgeon in Chattogram said the SMS for the second dose was delayed or people did not get it in time. As a result people did not come in time.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the vaccine management committee of DGHS, said, “Due to regular EPI, it had not been possible to administer the vaccine in several places. I hope that everyone will come on Saturday to get the second dose.”

However, there was no visible campaign regarding vaccination at the field level. The media published news regarding this on their own initiative. During the initial stages of the vaccination drive, many used to provide information regarding this through social media, which too has reduced a lot now.

Prof Be-Nazir Ahmed says campaigns regarding the vaccination drive should be run in full swing. People should be encouraged to get the second dose. Immunity from the virus cannot be ensured with full two doses. It could be a risk factor in future.

The wait is getting longer

Sheuli Akter, a resident of ward no. 26 in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC), told this correspondent on Friday that she registered for the vaccine on 2 August. Although three months have passed since then, she is yet to get the SMS for the vaccine. There are many cases like this.

in this situation, the government has declared that children aged between 12 to 17 years will be vaccinated. They will be given the Pfizer vaccine which needs to be preserved in extreme low temperatures. There is no such system to preserve this vaccine in most of the districts, let alone at upazila level. It would need special arrangements and extra manpower to vaccinate children in this situation. It can create a further delay in the vaccination of people who have already registered, said the persons concerned.

*This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo’s print and online edition, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu.