Millions Jabbed as Bangladesh Launches Walk-in Vaccine Centers

Kamran Reza Chowdhury
Dhaka
2021-08-09
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Millions Jabbed as Bangladesh Launches Walk-in Vaccine Centers People gather inside a walk-in COVID-19 inoculation center, at Rajshahi Teachers Training College in Bangladesh, Aug. 9, 2021.
[BenarNews]

Thousands of people jostled and quarreled outside vaccine centers nationwide as Bangladesh launched its first walk-in COVID-19 inoculation at the weekend, with one woman receiving two near-consecutive jabs amid the chaos, doctors said.

At least one politician, apparently in pursuit of a photo-op, added to the scrum at one inoculation center meanwhile by going against the rules and giving a shot of vaccine himself to one citizen, the district chief health officer said.

A BenarNews correspondent witnessed the pandemonium at several rowdy and jam-packed vaccine centers in Dhaka over the weekend.

“The government announced that we will get the vaccine if we go to the centers. But here they are not giving it to us,” Md. Mostofa, who claims he was denied a vaccine at the Pallabi center in Dhaka’s Mirpur neighborhood, told BenarNews.

“That is why we are shouting. People have been fighting for vaccines.”

Dr. Shamsun Nahar, the head of the Pallabi center, acknowledged that people were shouting and creating trouble there but said it was for a different reason.

“We first give vaccines to the people who got the SMS from the health directorate,” Nahar said, referring to a text message.

“But some people want us to give them vaccines immediately even though they have not got the SMS.”

Official data showed that some 3.8 million people received a COVID-19 jab on Saturday and Sunday at walk-in centers across the country.

Bangladesh is currently using only two-shot COVD-19 vaccines, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Sinopharm, with health regulations specifying these shots have to be administered an average of eight weeks apart.

But on Saturday, 31-year-old Ismat Ara of Rajbari district got her second shot of Sinopharm not long after getting her first one, her husband and Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim Titan, the district’s chief health official, confirmed.

“We set up two seating arrangements – one row for the people who had yet to receive the jabs and the second for those who had been administered the jabs,” Titan told BenarNews.

“The lady [Ismat Ara] returned to the row that was meant for the unvaccinated despite having received the jab. One worker mistakenly injected her with another jab as she thought the lady was waiting for a vaccine.”

Ismat Ara was admitted into a hospital for observation and was released on Sunday, Titan said.

Nahidul Haque Swapon, Ismat Ara’s husband, said his wife was feeling fine as of Monday, but he was still worried.

“There was total chaos in the room where people were being given the vaccines. And a health worker suddenly came and injected my wife with a second jab before she could say anything,” Nahidul told BenarNews.

BD-MP.jpg

Bagmara constituency MP Enamul Haque injects a COVID-19 vaccine into the arm of a man as doctors and health workers watch, at a walk-in vaccination center in Rajshahi district, Bangladesh, Aug. 7, 2021. [BenarNews]

Ismat Ara’s was not the first such case, according to unconfirmed local media reports.

In July, a man in Kushtia district, in western Bangladesh, received two COVID-19 jabs in 10 minutes, the Prothom Alo news site reported. The chief health officer confirmed to the news outlet that a man had received two shots because he did not inform the nurse that he had already been jabbed.

Also in July, an interview with a man called Omar Faruque went viral on Bangladeshi social media after he claimed he got three COVID 19 shots in one day. The incident allegedly took place at a vaccine center at the government-run Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hospital, which denied the report as “disinformation.”

A former chief scientific officer at a state-run institute said there was no research on the consequences of getting more than one COVID-19 shot a day.

“One dose at a time is standard. But there is no research for injecting two doses of coronavirus vaccines at the same time,” Dr. Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, formerly with the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), told BenarNews.

“I think the woman should be kept under strict observation to find out whether she faced any health consequences,” he said, referring to Ismat Ara.

The chief scientific officer at the institute said there were some issues with the inoculation program but they were one-offs. He did not specify what issues he was referring to.

“Apart from some stray incidents, the mass vaccination drive has been going on in a proper way,” Dr. A.S.M. Alamgir told BenarNews.

“This drive has aroused huge interest in people,” he said about the COVID-19 vaccination program.

‘MP administered a jab’

Since the Jan. 27 launch of the program, 18.5 million people have received a COVID-19 jab, of whom 4.5 million people are fully inoculated. The program stalled for at least three months in late March, due to a halt in AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries from India, which was seeing a horrific second wave of infections.

After donations from COVAX, the United States, Bangladesh in July resumed its mass COVID-19 vaccinations. But infections began soaring a month earlier, due to the highly contagious Delta variant first detected in India, and remain above 10,000 new cases a day.

Bangladesh reported 11,463 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking the caseload to 1,365,158. With 245 new virus-related deaths, the pandemic death toll rose to 22,897.

Amid this spike in infections, it appears COVID-19 jabs having become a prestige point for parliamentarians.

On Saturday, Enamul Haque, an MP from the ruling Awami League party, wanted to mark the launch of walk-in vaccinations with a photograph of himself administering a jab to a constituent.

Dr. Md Quaiyum Talukder, chief health official of Rajshahi district in Bagmara, confirmed that Haque had jabbed a local man.

“Yes, the honorable MP administered a jab. We have come to know about it,” Talukder told BenarNews.

“Our health workers perhaps could not understand the gravity of the issue and allowed the MP to administer the jab. I think he should not have administered the vaccine. Administering vaccines needs special training.” he said.

Health officials followed up with the man who received the MP’s jab and he is fine, Talukder said.

BenarNews telephoned Haque and sent him a text message seeking his comment, but he did not immediately respond.

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