Among South Asian nations, only Afghanistan has vaccinated fewer people
The vaccination campaign in Bangladesh has picked up pace in the last month, but the country is still lagging behind its neighbours in terms of the proportion of the population vaccinated.
Since the nationwide vaccination campaign began on February 7 and till Friday, a total of 6.25 million had been fully vaccinated in Bangladesh, while 16.17 million people had received their first dose.
According to McKinsey & Company, an American management consultancy company, the total number of people vaccinated in Bangladesh accounts for only 4% of the country’s population.
Among neighbouring nations, Bhutan stands at the top after inoculating 90% of its population, followed by 55% vaccinated in the Maldives, 23% in Sri Lanka, 13% in Nepal, 9% in India, 6% in Pakistan, and 1% in Afghanistan.
Is Bangladesh actually faring worse than other countries?
Health experts in Bangladesh have said it is misleading to use a proportion of the population vaccinated as the only metric to gauge the vaccination situation in a country.
According to Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, noted virologist and chief advisor to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR): “The size of the population is the biggest factor. Bangladesh has one of the highest populations among South Asian countries; therefore the country needs a lot of vaccines.
“India, being a vaccine producer itself, is supposed to be ahead of us. Nepal managed to do a good job, going beyond its capacity, because it was able to secure vaccines beforehand.
Dr Mohammad Robed Amin, spokesperson for Covid-19 management at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), also stressed that a vaccine rollout was heavily dependent on availability.
“We were going through a crisis just a while ago, when we had to pause the entire vaccination campaign because of a lack of doses. Right now, I would say we are doing a lot better. We almost rolled out 3.2 million vaccines in a day during the countrywide mass vaccination,” he said.
Bangladesh had the capacity to swiftly administer vaccines if they can be procured, the DGHS spokesperson added.
The pharmaceutical company Incepta recently signed an agreement with the Chinese firm Sinopharm for a co-production of vaccines.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain said local production was an important step towards ensuring vaccine availability for a large population.
Vaccination situation in South Asian countries
Sri Lanka has been doing a commendable job since it started the vaccination in July, undertaking initiatives to inoculate up to 500,000 people in a single day, according to the McKinsey & Company report.
Nepal, being a smaller country with a smaller population, managed to secure enough vaccines through Covax and bilateral treaties with numerous nations to roll out an efficient vaccination drive. Right now, the country has more than 3.5 million fully vaccinated people.
In India, the government rolled out a mass vaccination campaign when the country was dealing with the devastating effects of the Delta variant of Covid-19. Right now, India is vaccinating about 5 million people a day, with 125 million people fully vaccinated.
Although Pakistan’s vaccination rate is higher than Bangladesh’s, the country struggled to bring its population under mass vaccination significantly from May-June. It has nearly 8 million fully vaccinated people in a nation of 216.6 million people.