There is still a lot of misinformation surrounding the vaccine
With the news that vaccination against Covid-19 was about to start, I told some Bangladeshi friends that I looked forward to getting the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. “No, no, Julian bhai, you should wait to see if others die or have side effects,” I was advised.
My answer was that I had confidence in all the trials that had been done so far in other countries, and I hoped that as many adults as possible would take the vaccine in Bangladesh. My friends pointed out that Bangladesh had experienced very few deaths, and so we should believe and understand that most Bangladeshis are immune and will not be infected by Covid-19.
I tried to convince them that “It is better to be safe than sorry.” I told these doubters that I had been taking different types of vaccines in India and Bangladesh over the last 50 years and more, and I had never had any adverse reaction.
In any case, a few days ago I went on to the surokkha.gov.bd website and registered on February 5. It was a very impressive experience, and two days after registering, I received an SMS message confirming that I should go to the hospital of my choice, Combined Military Hospital (CMH), on February 11 for my first jab.
On receipt of this message, I went into the website again and downloaded the vaccination card. It was interesting to see that even the names of my British parents were there in Bangla. And so, on the appointed day, I went to CMH and all formalities with the vaccination were completed very smoothly within only 30 minutes. In addition, no side effects at all, and I hardly felt the prick of the syringe needle.
The Government of Bangladesh should take great credit for organizing supplies of vaccines in good time. It is most impressive that I am going to receive mine only three weeks after my sister received hers through the National Health Service in the UK. It is also very good to see in the news that, at last, the government in Bangladesh has a plan to provide vaccines to all primary school teachers. It is vitally important that children of all ages go back to school, colleges, and universities as quickly as possible, and if vaccinating teachers is one way to do this, let it be rolled out immediately.
It is astonishing that, over the last 10 months, so little attention has been paid to the education of the future leaders of the country!
Those trying to persuade me to think twice about taking the vaccine also put out false information that the vaccine was not “halal” and possibly contained pork products. It is very reassuring to see that in the UK, the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) is running a campaign to encourage Muslim communities to get vaccinated.
Imam Qari Asim, chairman of MINAB, is quoted as saying: “Misinformation can result in someone losing their life and it is one of the core principles of Islam that protection of life is extremely important.” He said that it was “legitimate” to question whether things were permissible under Islam, but without paying attention to unfounded claims.
Imam Asim also said: “My message to Muslim communities is that it is our ethical obligation, moral duty, to take the vaccine whenever the opportunity arises.”
There is a lot of misinformation about the vaccines on social media, and there are not nearly enough attempts being taken to counter all of it. And related to misinformation, regardless of what you are told or what you read, even if you take the vaccine, please know that you are not completely safe and that you can still carry the virus for others to catch.
So, you must continue to keep regularly washing your hands, keep a safe distance, and please, please continue to wear a mask!
Julian Francis has been associated with relief and development activities of Bangladesh since the War of Liberation. In 2012, the government of Bangladesh awarded him the ‘Friends of Liberation War Honour’ in recognition of his work among the refugees in India in 1971 and in 2018 honoured him with full Bangladesh citizenship.