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Dhaka Tribune

Covid-19: Experts call for revisions to vaccination plan

Govt aims to vaccinate 2.5 million people per month, according to budget for FY22

Update : 08 Jun 2021, 11:08 PM

The government needs to revise several aspects of the Covid-19 vaccination program in order to ensure that vaccines are effectively administered once more doses arrive, experts at a discussion have said

Problems in prioritizing groups, communication strategies, research, monitoring and evaluation need to be addressed to ensure maximum vaccine coverage within a year, they added.

The discussion on vaccine availability and deployment was organized by the Institute of Health Economics of Dhaka University, Initiative for Health and Development (IHD) and Universal Research Care (URC) on Tuesday.

In his budget speech for the 2021-22 fiscal year on June 3, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said the government aimed at administering 2.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine each month.

Addressing the discussion on Tuesday, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) pharmacology department Chairman Prof Sayedur Rahman said the vaccination target was inadequate and needed to be increased.

“At the targeted rate, only 1% of the population will be vaccinated every two days while the rest will remain at risk. The vaccine program needs to be implemented in a way that ensures the maximum possible vaccine coverage in a year,” he added.

Cell biology expert Dr Liakat Ali, a member of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) public health expert group on Covid-19, said several aspects of the vaccination program needed to be scrutinized properly.

“Although the platform or mechanism to administer the vaccine and regulatory management are working well right now, getting vaccines from any sources appears to be the main problem. 

“Problems with prioritizing groups, communication strategies, a lack of research data and the absence of monitoring and evaluation systems remain,” he said.

Dr Liakat Ali added that the government was yet to make it clear if it was thinking of providing booster doses. “The plan will take more than three years to implement, and the effectiveness of the vaccine is yet to be determined.”

Communication strategies needed to be improved to ensure that the public did not fear the vaccine, he added.

Dr Mustaque Hussain, advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said he hoped people would realize the importance of vaccination and rush to centres once more doses arrived.

“About 1.5 million people are still waiting for their second dose,” he added.

Dr Hussain also said it would be difficult to meet the demand for vaccines without local production.

Prof Sayedur Rahman said Bangladesh had already fallen victim to vaccine diplomacy.

“All the vaccines invented globally got assistance from any of the state governments. The leaders of the countries understood that this was going to be a weapon for diplomacy ahead,” he observed, calling for the Bangladesh government to prepare accordingly.

Prof Liakat Ali said inefficient use of local resources was another major challenge for the country alongside the unavailability of vaccines.   

“The health authorities also did not assess host factors, such as how these vaccines would react inside the body and so on. Bangladesh also failed to establish collaboration between genome sequencing experts and clinical correlation experts even in a pandemic,” he said.

“To succeed in the vaccination program and build herd immunity among the people, proper data must be collected. As the new consignment of vaccines is supposed to arrive very soon, the health authorities should revisit the plan and make it more realistic and efficient,” he added.

The DGHS started the vaccination program from February 7 with a set-up that could vaccinate over 350,000 people a day.

At the time, a spokesperson for the directorate told Dhaka Tribune that the DGHS wanted to administer 200,000 doses a day, as its initial target  was to vaccinate 5,000,000 people every month. However, the target was later lowered due to low initial response from the public and the failure of Serum Institute of India to deliver contractual shipments of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. 

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