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Bangladesh may face chaos over Covid vaccine, health experts fear

Published 21 Dec,2020 via The Financial Express - Healthcare experts on Sunday warned inappropriate methodology in setting priorities for Covid-19 vaccination would trigger "chaos" in the country.

The government has already prioritised some groups of people considering their ages and professions for the vaccination programme, but it could prove ineffective once the vaccine is reached as many influential people could flex their muscles to get inoculated, they expressed the fear

To avert such unexpected incidents, they suggested the application of antibody screening of the people, which will show the individuals lack antibodies.

The warnings came at a virtual dialogue on 'Access to Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh, Who, When and How?' organised by the Citizen's Platform for SDGs, Bangladesh.

Alongside the public procurement, they recommended allowing the private sector to import the Covid vaccines.

Speaking at the event, former president of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Professor Dr Rashid-e-Mahbub said face value always gets preference in getting subsidised facilities coming from the public sector because of their influence as it was experienced in the past.

"Same thing could happen in getting Covid-19 vaccines too. I think a chaotic situation or an event of criminalisation over getting a vaccine could arise," he warned.

Dr Mahbub, also chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement, said the government should allow the private pharma companies to procure and sell vaccines under a properly-monitored regulatory framework.

"Steps should be taken so that influential persons cannot snatch away the facility like they did in case of oxygen cylinders during this pandemic," he added.

Viral disease expert Dr Bijon Kumar Sil said the government cannot cover all the people in one go for providing the vaccines and it must select the proper sets of people for immunisation.

"All the people do not need vaccines. People having low-level or no antibody must be vaccinated. The government can use a rapid test, which will show the level of antibody in three minutes," he said.

He said the test will help reduce the possible scope for misuse. After that, the government needs to monitor the efficacy or side effects of the vaccines as 10-month research is not enough to certify the dose is effective.

UNICEF cold-chain specialist Hamidul Islam said the expanded programme of immunisation (EPI) has 692 cold-chain network points across the country, which are enough to transport and supply Covid vaccines that need to be preserved in 2-8 degree Celsius temperature.

He said the government should go slowly and steadily in the immunisation process so that the existing cold-chain can bear the pressure.

"If we go for more and more purchase from various companies at a time, it will be challenging for the existing cold-chain network," he added.

Dr Firdousi Qadri, senior scientist of ICDDR'B Infectious Disease Division, said there would be some vaccine-related risks because it is a new one.

"All countries are going to face those. We have to look at the side effects. We're a different kind of population, our genetics are different. We do not know how the vaccine will work in our setting unless we use it. But we do not have a choice," she added.

Former health minister AFM Ruhal Haque said the implementation of planning has always been a challenge in the health sector, which needs to be addressed.

He called upon the people in the management of the vaccination to be cautious and transparent as it would be very difficult to control people's anger over not getting the vaccines.

The former health minister expressed his disagreement with the decision on making deputy commissioners the district heads of the committee instead of civil surgeons.

Distinguished fellow of CPD Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya said the policymakers need to be well aware so that vaccination cannot be executed poorly like monetary packages for the virus-hit communities.

To this effect, he highlighted administrative, democratic and social accountability for ensuring the efficient service delivery.

Lawmaker Dr Habibe Millat, CPD distinguished fellow Dr Rounq Jahan, Convenor of Bangladesh Health Watch Dr Mustaque Raza Chowdhury and professor of economics at Dhaka University Dr Rumana Huque, among others, spoke at the virtual discussion.

Another report adds: The daily death tally due to Covid-19 climbed up to 38 on Sunday, while the virus infection rate declined further.

On Saturday, twenty-five deaths were reported due to coronavirus in the country, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)

With Sunday's tally, the total fatalities from Covid-19 reached 7,280 since the virus was detected in Bangladesh in March.

On the other hand, some 1,153 more people were diagnosed Covid-19 positive during the last 24-hour reporting time until 8:00 am on Sunday with the positivity rate showing a downward trend.

According to the official figures, a total of 13,316 samples were tested, including antigen-based rapid tests, while 12,900 samples were collected across the country during the last 24-hour reporting period.

However, the Covid-19 infection rate dropped further to 8.66 per cent in Bangladesh on Sunday from the previous day's rate of 10.30 per cent, the DGHS figures revealed.

During the last 24 hours under review, a total of 1,926 people recovered from coronavirus infection in the country.

The recovery rate increased further to 87.38 per cent on Sunday compared to that of 86.20 per cent on Saturday, said the DGHS press release.

On the other hand, the rate of fatalities from Covid-19 remained static at 1.45 per cent on Sunday.

According to the official data, the total Covid-19 caseload so far has crossed 0.5 million to reach 5,00,713 in Bangladesh, and of them 4,37,527 recovered from the deadly disease.

On the other hand, over 3.07 million samples were tested until Tuesday since the virus was detected in the country in March, the DGHS figures showed.

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