Medical &Health

Vaccination in Bangladesh: Public apathy looks to be a big challenge

Though the government is set to launch the mass Coronavirus Covid-19 vaccination program across the country on February 7, public apathy to get registered for it looks to be a major challenge to make the drive a success.

While the government’s target was to vaccinate 2.60 lakh people each day, only 1.5 lakh people got registered online in nine days as of Thursday.

Under the circumstances, the government has decided to vaccinate 35 lakh people instead of over 60 lakh in the first month of the drive.

Health experts think the government must simplify the registration process and ensure community engagement alongside launching a mass campaign to encourage people to get registered for receiving the vaccine.

The government has already sent the vaccine doses to all the districts of the country while all the preparations, including the arrangement of equipment and booths, have been taken for carrying out the drive.

Seven million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine are currently available in Bangladesh and people must get registered on www.surokkha.gov.bd for getting a shot.

Technophobia a major problem

Talking to UNB, public health expert MH Chowdhury (Lenin), chairman of the medicine department at the Health and Hope Hospital, said the current online vaccine registration process is a complicated one. “Most people in the country cannot get registered through the website or app by themselves.”

He said many people, especially the elderly ones and those living in rural areas, are not well-accustomed to IT. So, huge people despite having the interest in getting vaccinated are not getting registered online because of technophobia.”

Lenin thinks app-based registration is suitable for European and developed countries, not for Bangladesh for various reasons.

“Even in urban areas, millions of people living in slums don’t have smartphones to get registered on their own. So, many people’s access to the vaccine cannot be ensured due to online registration,” he observed.

The expert said the government can use schools in every locality as registration centers where volunteers will help people get registered for the vaccine without any hassle.

Coronavirus Covid19 vaccination Bangladesh

He said the government has already said the registration can be done at the vaccination centers and it is a good initiative.

Campaign necessary

Dr. Be-Nazir Ahmed, former director (disease control) of the DGHS, said there are three major reasons — lack of necessary campaigns, problems regarding the apps, and people’s lack of interest — behind the low response to the registration for the Coronavirus vaccination.

“The government needs to carry out a massive campaign to make people understand the importance of receiving the vaccine and remove their confusion and apathy,” he observed.

Dr. Be-Nazir said the government should not think all people will show their interest in the vaccine without any motivation. “Those who read newspapers, watch TV, and have scientific knowledge may know the importance of the vaccine. But other people need motivation through a campaign for receiving the vaccine.”

He said if the government engages the workers of community clinics, UHFWC and NGOs with the registration drive, they can talk to people and answer different questions and thus encourage them to receive the vaccine.