The government decision comes as a massive number of people overwhelm hospitals
Following a surge of on-the-spot registrations for Covid-19 vaccine at healthcare facilities in the country, the government has decided to halt the service until further notice.
Many vaccine aspirants had started registering on the spot – which was only introduced to assist people uneasy with technology – by taking help from IT experts at the centres to complete online registration or by providing NID photocopies and information to get registered manually.
But now everyone has to complete online registration first to get jabs.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the decision was taken to ensure that the ongoing vaccination campaign ran smoothly as huge numbers of people had started gathering at the vaccination centres to complete registration.
“We saw that the number of on the spot registrations was increasing recently. As a result, those who registered online were facing problems due to the chaos at the centres,” he said.
He made the announcement while speaking at a program in the capital on Thursday.
Sources said some high officials of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) were against on the spot registration facilities from the beginning. They wanted the data centres at union and upazila centres to be used as registration centres for technologically illiterate people.
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Another reason behind the cancellation of on the spot registration facilities is the need to reduce pressure. Although every hospital has a certain capacity, the more prominent hospitals have been facing an extra load of vaccine aspirants.
As there is no confirmation of the second consignment of vaccines reaching the country in due time, the health authorities plan to go easy to ensure a continuous inoculation campaign.
Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) on Wednesday administered 960 vaccine shots. However, only 400 people were registered online while 560 individuals received their jabs after on-the-spot registration, according to hospital officials. This created a rush in the hospital.
A similar situation was seen at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU).
BSMMU Vice Chancellor (VC) Prof Kanak Kanti Barua said: “We had to administer around 700 more vaccine jabs due to the increasing number of on-the-spot registration on Wednesday. It is difficult to manage physical registration and vaccination efforts at the same time.”
Vaccine seekers were not allowed to register in person at least at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) and Kurmitola General Hospital since Thursday morning.
The health minister, however, said the facility would be restored later if the situation demanded it.
Vaccination plan could still change
The vaccination plan could be altered further, depending on the availability of vaccines and the number of vaccine aspirants in the country, sources said.
The vaccine registration recently got pace as more than 1.24 million people completed their registration till 8pm on Thursday, according to ICT Division sources.
Till February 6, the day before the inauguration of the vaccination campaign, only 328,000 people had completed online registration.
However, as the government reduced the age limit to 40 and people have been getting over their initial fears, some 1.02 million people registered till Wednesday midnight. According to the ICT state minister, over 594,000 lakh people among them are frontline fighters while over 433,000 are mass people.
The authorities said if the current rate of registration continued, it would take 10 more days to fulfil the initial target of 3.5 million.
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The registration platform would still be in operation even after fulfilling the target, they added.
When asked, the health minister told Dhaka Tribune that the authorities would initially follow the current plan but they could still return to their initial plan of vaccinating six million people in the first month depending on the situation.
“It will depend on how many people registered to take the vaccine and the availability of the vaccines,” he said.
Regarding the arrival of the second consignment of vaccines from Serum Institute of India (SII), he said: “Any day within this month.”
A total of 204,540 people got their first shots of the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine across the country on Thursday.
Of them, 140,152 were men and 64,388 were women. Eighty six people were reported to have had common side effects.
Till now 542,309 people have been vaccinated across the country while 363 people among them experienced common adverse events.
Private medicals to start administering vaccine soon
Replying to a question, the health minister said his ministry was fine-tuning the last minute details on giving permission to private hospitals to administer vaccines.
“We are scrutinizing the quality and capacity of the private hospitals,” he said.
The health minister said: “We will give them a little and see how it is working. Then it will be decided how much they will get.”
The minister also mentioned that the authorities were still working on the legal issue and the price of the vaccine at the private centres.