What was noticed from the beginning of the coronavirus vaccination programme in Bangladesh from 7 February to 15 February is encouraging. Firstly, the initial doubts about the vaccine have been allayed and the interest in inoculation has grown and is growing. This is evident from the growing number of recipients and registrants. The number of vaccinators doubled in 24 hours between 9 February and 11 February. It has risen again after two days of low vaccinations due to the weekly holiday. On 15 February, some 226,678 people across the country have been vaccinated. Till noon on that day, some 19,68,998 people registered for vaccination.
Apart from this, as far as we have learned from different parts of the country including the capital Dhaka, the vaccination work is going on in an orderly manner. Discipline in the immunisation programme has increased after the closure of on-spot registration.
Such an encouraging response from the people needs to continue, if this vaccine programme is to succeed. This is the first important thing. The second important point is that coronavirus vaccination is a universal right and the government is committed to implementing that right cent per cent. Currently, the ongoing immunisation programme covers people from 15 occupations and educated and affluent people.
A huge number of urban slum dwellers and low-income people are still out of the purview of the programme. This is because the registration system for vaccination is internet-based, which is not possible without digital devices and internet connection. In rural areas, support from the Union Information Service Centres is limited, but urban slum dwellers and low-income people who are excluded from technical facilities cannot register for inoculation either.
The limitation of the current system of registration is a major problem in ensuring that all the people aged 40 and above are vaccinated. This is because, according to the Directorate General of Health Services, the responsibility for registration for vaccination in urban areas lies with the city corporations. But the city corporations have not yet started the registration; they are in the preparatory phase. We think that the registration process is not that complicated if the ward-based initiatives of city corporations and municipalities are arranged in an orderly manner.
It is possible to complete the work quickly with the national identity card (NID) by installing necessary technology in the ward. Of course, for this arrangements of manpower capable of registering online should be made. There is a need to expand the cooperation of the Union Information Service Centres for the illiterate and technology deprived people in the remote rural areas. As far as we know, no measures have been taken so far to check whether these people have been included in the vaccination process or not.
In order to implement the universal right to vaccination, steps must be taken to address the inconsistency in registration in both urban and rural areas.