Vaccine recipients will get an SMS reminder on their second dose when it is due
Bangladesh is set to start administering the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from March 25, following the government decision to administer them eight weeks after the first shot.
DGHS Director (Disease Control) and spokesperson Dr Nazmul Islam told Dhaka Tribune they are counting the eight weeks to the start of the second dose phase from January 28, when 541 health professionals received their first shots as part of a dry run of the nationwide vaccination campaign.
This is the second time the health authorities have changed their mind on when to start administering the second dose. The initial plan was to administer them eight weeks after the first dose, but this was changed to four weeks and has now reverted to the original.
Some of the seven million vaccine doses Bangladesh has so far received from India will expire on April 24 and the rest on June 3, as the batches were manufactured on different dates.
The government is considering cutting down the interval between doses out of fear that the second official shipment will not arrive on time, and because of insufficient public response prior to the start of the nationwide vaccination campaign, DGHS Director General ABM Khurshid Alam has said.
“We have now received guarantees about receiving the next shipment of the vaccine and we have also been advised to keep 8-12 weeks between doses, so we are sticking with 8 weeks,” he added.
The Word Health Organization on February 10 suggested an interval of 8-12 weeks between doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. Subsequently, the government sought the advice of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NiTAC) and the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19 (NTAC).
The recommendations of both committees were evaluated at a meeting of the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Committee on Sunday. The DGHS disclosed the decision on the interval between doses on Monday.
DGHS Additional DG Meerjady Sabrina Flora said vaccine recipients would get SMS reminders on their second dose when it was due.
"The process will not be complicated. What we need to do is to give an input to Surokkha (the online vaccine management platform) to send the reminder message eight weeks after the first dose. Everyone should go to the vaccination centres after getting the message,” she added.
0.04% adverse events
According to the DGHS, 226,678 people were vaccinated on Monday, taking the total number of people vaccinated in the country to 1,132,711.
Vaccine recipients have reported a total of 455 adverse events so far, including 29 reported on Monday.
DGHS DG Dr Khurshid Alam said all the adverse events were only mild side effects.
“There were 426 adverse events reported from 906,033 vaccinations. This is only 0.04% of the total number,” he added.
The professor said the most common side effects reported to DGHS were a low fever, headache, pain in the areas of the body where the vaccine was administered, low pressure and body aches.
IEDCR to research antibodies and immunization
The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) will begin monitoring antibodies and immunization status around the same time second doses are administered, as that is when antibodies are supposed to develop.
The IEDCR had already been tasked with sero-surveillance of people who had contracted Covid-19 and this will be expanded to include vaccinated people, according to Dr Flora.
Hospital vaccine registration quota to be lifted
DGHS DG Dr Khurshid Alam said the authorities had directed the removal of vaccine registration quota on hospitals as there was no risk of a vaccine shortage under the revised plan to vaccinate 3.5 million in the first month.
“More doses will be available and there will be no risk of shortage under the revised plan, so we will write to hospitals to lift the vaccine registration quota,” he said, adding that people would be able to register wherever they wanted.
He further said age restrictions on vaccine registration would be widened once all frontline fighters and citizens over 40 were vaccinated.
The DGHS on February 8 opened vaccine registration for people over 40 years old, after initially only allowing people over the age of 55.