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Discontent in Chattogram

The coronavirus vaccine has been administered in around one thousand vaccine centres across the country, including government hospitals in upazila and district towns. The stock of vaccines is dwindling rapidly in many of these vaccine centres. An upazila health official told Prothom Alo that it would not be possible to administer the second dose to all the people who got the first dose.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) is one of the major vaccine centres of the country. Speaking to Prothom Alo on Sunday evening, Md Sharfuddin Ahmed, the vice-chancellor of BSMMU, said, “We will be able to continue the vaccination programme till 20 May. If the DGHS does not provide us with new consignments of vaccines, as many as 8,000 people would not get the second dose.”

The scenario is the same almost all over the country. This has created concern among the people. Prothom Alo’s Chattogram correspondent said crowds of people started to gather at Chattogram Medical College Hospital from Sunday morning. The concerned authority said it would not be possible to vaccinate everyone due to the shortage of vaccine. Despite that, people thronged in front of Chattogram Medical College Hospital to get the vaccine.

Brigadier general SM Humayun Kabir, director of the hospital, told Prothom Alo, “There is a shortage of vaccines. We have brought 100 vials from the civil surgeon’s office for vaccination on Monday. Around 1000 people can be vaccinated with this. However, there are people who did not get the SMS for vaccination, but came here for the vaccine. I cannot afford to vaccinate them.”

In several vaccine centres in Chattogram, it has been observed that many people have come to get vaccinated without getting the SMS in the fear that the vaccine would run out.

Commotion broke out in the morning at City Corporation Momen General Hospital. At one point there was a scuffle among the people over dispute with standing in line. People who came to get vaccinated blocked the road for 15 minutes around 11am as they were not allowed to enter the centre. Later, police took control of the situation.

When asked about this, Chattogram City Corporation’s chief health official Selim Akter Chowdhury told Prothom Alo, “There is a shortage of vaccines. We are administering vaccines with caution. It is not possible to vaccinate the people who have not received the required SMS to get vaccinated. Some people started a commotion over this issue. This is why we had to call the police.”

The extent of deficit

Bangladesh has received a total of 10.2 (1 crore and 2 lakh) million doses of vaccine, including purchased 7 million doses and 3.2 million doses as a gift from India. Till Sunday, a total of 9.3 million (9,316,086) doses have been given, including both the first and second dose. There should be a total of 83,914 doses of coronavirus vaccines at different centres. But in reality, the stock of vaccines is lower than that.

It’s natural that some of the vaccines would be wasted during vaccination. The officials of Extended Programme of Immunisation (EPI) say usually 10 per cent waste in a vaccination programme is granted as acceptable. However, great cautiousness has been maintained in the case of this vaccine.

A single vial contains 10 doses of vaccine. Some of the health workers can administer 10 doses from a single vial while others cannot.

Again there are such incidents where after opening a vial, there are only three people at the vaccine centres to get vaccinated. In that case, the rest seven doses are wasted.

This correspondent spoke to health workers of BSMMU around 12.00pm on Sunday. They said it is not possible to administer 10 doses of vaccine from each vial. The university authority says the wastage should be one per cent or below that.

On the other hand, seeking anonymity, a civil surgeon from the Chattogram division said that we have to consider at least three to four per cent wastage.

When asked about the extent of vaccine wastage, Meerjady Sabrina Flora, the head of the vaccine committee of the DGHS told Prothom Alo on Saturday that in some places the extent of wastage is negligible. In some places the extent of wastage is a bit more than usual. Overall, the extent of wastage should not be more than four to five per cent.

If one per cent of the total vaccine that the country has received is wasted, then the number of people to be deprived of the second dose would be 100,000 more. If the wastage is 2 per cent, then this amount will be 200,000. In that case, the second dose of coronavirus vaccine would be uncertain for more than 1.5 million (15 lakh) people.

The director of the disease control unit of and also the spokesperson of the DGHS, Nazmul Islam told Prothom Alo, “It is scientifically accepted to administer the second dose of Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine 12 weeks after the first dose. In this regard, we will consult with the technical advisory committee. If they agree, we would get another four weeks. Apart from this, strong steps are being taken to procure vaccines.”

[Chattogram correspondent Pranab Baul assisted in preparing this report]

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo online and print editions, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu.

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