Among the vaccine recipients, most were health care professionals
As the dry run of the Covid-19 vaccination program kicks off without any reports of side effects among the recipients, the government has begun distributing vaccines at the district level to launch the nationwide inoculation drive on February 7.
All 567 vaccine recipients – 26 on Wednesday and 541 on Thursday – will be kept under observation by the Directorate General of health Services (DGHS) to see if anyone experiences any side effects from the vaccine.
Meanwhile, the central office of the Extended Program on Immunization (EPI) at Mohakhali has started sending frozen boxes to districts outside the capital city as per requirements.
DGHS Line Director (MNC & AH) Dr Md Shamsul Haque said the authorities had begun distributing the vaccines, which were stored at Beximco warehouse in Tongi, to the districts across the country from Thursday afternoon.
Prof Dr Nazmul Islam, director of Communicable Diseases Control (CDC) at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and also one of the spokespersons of the Covid-19 management and vaccination media cell of the DGHS, told Dhaka Tribune: “We are taking all-out preparations for a smooth start to the campaign.”
“We don’t want to say today’s [Thursday] program is a trial run as they are yet to take the second shot of the vaccine. We will start the nationwide vaccination program on February 7 as scheduled before administering the second shot,” Prof Nazmul added.
541 people receive vaccine on second day
According to the DGHS, the authorities on Thursday administered the vaccine to 120 people at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), 198 people at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU), 100 people at Kurmitola General Hospital, 58 at Kuwait Bangladesh Friendship Government Hospital and 65 at Mugda Medical College and Hospital.
Of them, 431 were men and 110 were women. A total of 296 doctors, 32 nurses and 208 people from other professions as well as five VIPs received the vaccine.
The five VIP vaccine recipients are State Minister for Information and Communication Technology Zunayed Ahmed Palak, State Minister of Cultural Affairs KM Khalid, Health Secretary Md Abdul Mannan, BSMMU Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof Kanak Kanti Barua and the ICT secretary.
He said no one had reported having any side effects from the vaccine till 5pm.
“The vaccination program has been quite successful till now. All the vaccine recipients will be kept under observation. In the last 24 hours, no problems have emerged. We have to keep monitoring them in the next seven days as well,” Dr Nazmul said.
“If no issues are found, we can go for a mass level vaccination program with a promising outcome,” he added.
Visits to BSMMU and DMCH revealed that almost all the vaccine recipients were leaving the vaccination centres without taking time to recuperate at the resting place set at the centres.
They said they all felt normal and were going back to their work.
Only an administration officer of BSMMU had to take rest for some 10 minutes when his blood pressure dropped. The duty doctors said it might have been caused due to the recipient feeling nervous.
Eminent virologist and former VC of BSMMU, Prof Dr Nazrul Islam said it was very common and the explanation was very much acceptable.
There is indeed a psychological issue as everyone is not the same, he said.
“What we have seen till now is that no major adverse impact has been reported. This is a good sign and if it continues for two or three days it will make us more hopeful. This seven-day observation will be crucial,” he added.
“What we want is that the vaccine develops immunity in the vaccine recipient’s body for at least a year,” Dr Nazrul Islam added.
VIPs taking vaccine
Although initially it was reported that health care professionals from five selected Covid-19 dedicated hospitals would take the shots, several officials of the administration and two members of parliament who are also state ministers took the first doses of the vaccine on Thursday.
Zunaid Ahmed Palak became the first sitting MP to receive the vaccine jab while State Minister of Cultural Affairs AKM Khalid received his shot one hour later at DMCH.
After taking the vaccine, Palak said: "People are asking why ministers or MPs are not taking the vaccine. That is why I decided to come and take the vaccine today."
The vaccine seemed to be safe and he had not yet felt any different or had any adverse effect after getting vaccinated, he added.
Health Service Division Secretary Abdul Mannan said: “We are urging people to take the vaccine. And if we don’t take the vaccine, then how can we ask others to do so?”
Agreeing with the secretary, Additional Secretary of the division Kazi Zebunnesa Begum said after taking the vaccine now they could say that possibilities of any immediate adverse impact were very few as they had experienced the vaccine personally.
Disposal of vaccine waste
DGHS (CDC) Director Prof Nazmul Islam said the waste collected from the used materials of the vaccine would be disposed of through following the guidelines of the World Health organization (WHO).
Vaccine waste includes the needle of the syringe used for administering the vaccine, the vial where the solution was kept, and the tissue used for sanitizing the portion of the arm where the vaccine is injected.
None of these can spread coronavirus, he added.
“So, following WHO guidelines, we are disposing of them like we do for other medical equipment,” the CDC director said.