The Health Directorate banks on its experiences of the countrywide Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) for children to roll out the six-day Covid vaccination campaign in rural Bangladesh on 7 August.
As Bangladesh has managed to inoculate only 2.5% of the population in six months since the mass inoculation began in February, public health experts are sceptical about immunisation management at the camps.
However, the health directorate says it has previous experience about mass inoculations under the EPI, and the Covid vaccination campaign aimed at jabbing 60 lakh people in six days would be smooth too.
Prof Dr Robed Amin, a health directorate spokesperson, said all the upazila level health complexes have ice-lined refrigerators, and the makeshift vaccination camps at unions would collect the shots from there in cold boxes.
"Everything will be just smooth," he told The Business Standard Thursday.
According to the health directorate plan, 10 lakh citizens aged above 25 years will receive their first dose per day at the 15,287 ward-level vaccination camps. The camps in urban areas will administer Moderna shots as the rural regions will offer Chinese Sinopharm doses that require normal refrigeration temperature.
The country now has 81.66 lakh shots of the two vaccines, plus some bulk-buy supplies of the Chinese vaccine that are to arrive in Dhaka in upcoming months.
During the six-day campaigns, current Covid vaccination centres up to the upazila level will administer only the second dose.
The health directorate said its six-day drive aims at inoculating more people in rural Bangladesh as the second wave, unlike the first one last year, is ripping through the villages with Covid patients from faraway districts overwhelming hospitals in the capital and other cities.
The government for the first time is going to engage non-government organisations and private hospitals as the ward councillors will designate the camps in their areas.
The drive will also allow people for the first time to get jabbed with on-spot registration.
"People who have internet access at union level will complete the online registration prior to the vaccination. If they cannot do that, we will do the registration on behalf of them at the camps. They only need to show up there with the national ID card, birth certificate, or passport," said Dr Robed Amin.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), said vaccines have already started to reach the upazila health facilities.
"The EPI health assistants, who have been administering shots to children for other diseases, will be administering the doses. So, there will be no manpower crisis," he told TBS.
Dr Alamgir said they are considering holding such camps every month after completing the maiden one on 12 August.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal has told the media that law enforcers would be deployed to oversee the vaccination at the camps.
However, in a note of caution, Prof Sayedur Rahman, pharmacology department chairman of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University advised to prioritise the elderly citizens so that they do not go missing in the crowds of young vaccine seekers.
"Bangladesh has the capacity to vaccinate 20 lakh people a day, so the question is not about manpower. Rather it is about setting your priorities as the death curve of the elderly people is causing alarm. You should go for the younger group of the population after inoculating people above 55," he noted.
Minimum age to get jabbed now 25
The government Thursday lowered the minimum age ceiling for Covid-19 vaccination for the fourth time to 25 as the vaccine rollout in February this year aimed at people aged 55 and above for the immunisation programme.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the minimum age ceiling will gradually be lowered to 18 years.
According to the latest data, the country currently has 49.45 lakh doses of Moderna vaccine, 50 thousand doses of Pfizer, 32.21 lakh doses of Sinopharm and 2.45 lakh of Oxford-AstraZenaca vaccine.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque recently said the country would receive a total of 21 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines by next year – enough to immunise 80% of the population.
In Bangladesh, 82.73 lakh people have received the first dose, and 43.22 lakh people received their second dose of Covid vaccines so far.