On Sunday, over 200,000 persons all over the country received their first jab. And 3194 were given their second jab. Officials of the Directorate General Health Services (DGHS)’s Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) said that when a larger number of vaccines are on hand, the pace of the vaccination drive will increase. There are considerations for setting up vaccination centres at a union level and below.

The centres must have facilities to deal with any possible strong reaction following the jab. Also, the vaccines must be stored at extreme low temperatures and that is why the government has not set up the centres in the rural areas.

Capacity

There are 120,000 permanent vaccination centres in the cities and villages of the country under the Expanded Programme on Immunisation. During special drives against measles, rubella or for immunisation against other diseases, around 20 million (2 crore) children got vaccinated every day at these centres.

As the side effects of the coronavirus vaccines are not clear, certain conditions have been imposed for setting up the vaccination centres. The centres must have facilities to deal with any possible strong reaction following the jab. Also, the vaccines must be stored at extreme low temperatures and that is why the government has not set up the centres in the rural areas.

From the start, the coronavirus vaccine is being administered at 1005 centres in the cities, district headquarters and upazilas. Some centres have several booths. Each booth has the capacity to administer at least 150 doses. The vaccines are given from 8:00 in the morning till 2:30 in the afternoon.

On the day before the mass vaccination drive began, DGHS spokespersons Md Najmul Islam said that they were beginning the drive with the capacity to vaccinate 360,000 persons. That target has not been met as yet.

Though the US does not have any immunisation experience like EPI, in one day it manages to vaccinate 3 million (30 lakh) people. Neighbouring India vaccinates 8 million (80 lakh) per day, according to the media.

Chairman of the pharmacology department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Sayedur Rahman told Prothom Alo, “Even if not as much as the US or India, we should vaccinate at least 1 million to 1.5 million persons a day. It is important to vaccinate as many people as possible in the shortest span of time.”

Vaccine update

So far 21,245,000 (2 crore 12 lakh 45 thousand) vaccines have arrived in the country. This includes 10,545,000 (1 crore 5 lakh 45 thousand) of the AstraZeneca vaccine, 100,000 (1 lakh) of Pfizer, 5.1 million (51 lakh) of Sinopharm and 5.5 million (55 lakh) of Moderna.

When the first batch of 10.03 million (1 crore 3 lakh) doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca finished, the vaccination drive came to a halt. Then 1.5 million (15 lakh) people were waiting for the second dose. DGHS officials have said that it has been decided that the 245,000 vaccines that arrived on Saturday will be given to the various centres in Dhaka division only.

Expatriate workers are being given 100,000 vaccines on a priority basis. Half of this stock has exhausted. The second dose is now being given.

Other than in the 12 city corporation, China’s Sinopharm vaccine is being given in all districts and upazilas of the country. Over 1.2 million (12 lakh) people have been given the vaccine so far.

An expatriate worker of Chattgram took the first dose of the US Moderna vaccine on 11 July. The second does was scheduled for 14 August. But the certificate he received states he has taken the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. Officials of the centre said they cannot change the certificate

The Moderna vaccine is being given in the 12 city corporation areas. So far 362,904 people have been given this vaccine. There are over 5 million (50 lakh) of this vaccine in stock. However, the daily administering of this vaccine is low. Yesterday 57,781 persons were vaccinated. The day before, this vaccine was given to 36,586 persons.

The people are eager to be vaccinated, but due to mismanagement many people can’t go to the centres and then lose interest. Many people do not receive the SMS on their mobile phones even 15 to 20 days after registering. In some cases, incomplete SMS are received. For example, on Sunday someone received an SMD that said: “Next schedule for Covid vaccine: Ground floor of the Neuroscience Hospital…’

An expatriate worker of Chattgram took the first dose of the US Moderna vaccine on 11 July. The second does was scheduled for 14 August. But the certificate he received states he has taken the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine. Officials of the centre said they cannot change the certificate. The expatriate worker rang up Prothom Alo to ask what could be done. Similar complaints are being received regularly.

The health directorate

The health department is planning on increasing the number of vaccination centres. However, that plan can only be implemented when an adequate stock of vaccines is on hand. In that case, union health sub-centres and community clinics will be used for the purpose.

Director of the DGHS maternal and child health programme Shamsul Huq, speaking to Prothom Alo, said, “If we had 10 million (1 crore) vaccines in hand, 5 million (50 lakh) people could be vaccinated. We are thinking of administering the vaccine simultaneously all over the country in 8 days. It will then be possible to vaccinate over 600,000 people in one day.”

The health minister has said that 210 million (21 crore) vaccines will arrive in the country by the beginning of next year. Then the number of daily vaccines will have to be increased in order to use these vaccines, public health experts say.

Professor Sayedur Rahman said, BSMMU administers vaccines half of the day. If the second half of the day could be used, then double the amount of vaccines could be given. The vaccinations can be increased in this manner all over the country.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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