BNP trying to create panic through dirty politics, Awami League says
The politicization of the Covid-19 vaccine program in Bangladesh in recent times is extremely disappointing and all political parties should cooperate to ensure a smooth distribution of the vaccine, health experts have said.
Political comments made in flippant manner, such as saying the leader of a particular political party should take the vaccine first to “ease fears about side effects,” may discourage the public from going for vaccination, they added.
Dr Tareq Mahmud Hussain, a member of the National Covid-19 Public Health advisory team, told Dhaka Tribune: “I think the leaders of all parties must cooperate on this vaccination program, as it is the best hope for combatting Covid-19 so far.”
The Covid-19 vaccine was dragged into politics a couple of weeks ago, when BNP leaders began claiming that the government would fail to bring in the vaccine. However, when the first shipment of two million vaccines arrived on January 21, the BNP leaders took a different line.
Initially, BNP Joint Secretary General Ruhul Kabir Rizvi suggested the earliest possible vaccination for VIPs, including top leaders of the ruling Awami League. In response, Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmus said he would ask the Health Ministry to ensure that BNP leaders got the vaccine first.
Last Sunday, BNP Secretary General Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said: "Prime Minister, you should take the first vaccine dose then tell people there is nothing to fear. If ministers and MPs take the vaccines, then you will see that people will gain confidence in the vaccine.”
On Monday, Awami League Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif told Dhaka Tribune BNP had been politicizing the vaccine as a “dirty political tactic.”
He said: “This is nothing but dirty politics. People will decide whether they want the vaccine themselves. Who is Mirza Fakhrul to decide who will or will not be vaccinated? They started by spreading rumours and now they are trying to create panic among people when the government is about to start the vaccination process.”
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said health workers would get the vaccine first.
“Nobody is going to be forced to take the vaccine. A person will only get the vaccine if he wants it,” he added.
Government officials involved in the vaccination process said the program would be conducted entirely as per guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO). Therefore, health workers would get the vaccine first, following which other emergency workers would get priority.
Public representatives such as members of parliament, mayors, local chairmen and other government officials will also get vaccines and are included in the plans. A registration app is being developed so that interested people in designated categories can access vaccines easily.
The government will also set up a communication hub for the vaccination program, to ensure that rumours do not spread, according to sources at the national advisory committee.