Response still slow in villages | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 17, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:05 AM, February 17, 2021

Response still slow in villages

Most low income, illiterate people face hassle in vaccine registration; picture in major cities is just opposite

While the progress in inoculation drives is good in major cities, including divisional headquarters, it is still poor in small towns and rural areas as people there find the online registration process burdensome, divisional health experts said.

Jyotimohon Das, a 68-year-old farmer of Dosmontopur village in Sunamganj's Jamalganj upazila, is still unaware of the mass vaccination.

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"I don't see anyone giving vaccines here. I didn't even know that I need to get registered and go to Sadar upazila for vaccine. I thought they would come to give vaccines like they give to the children all the time," he said.

Experts also said mass awareness campaigns should be strengthened in rural areas to bring more people in the vaccination programme in order to curb transmission of the highly-contagious Covid-19, which has already claimed around 9,000 lives in the country.

Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, told The Daily Star yesterday, "It is not that people have no eagerness. But the registration system should be made easier. Besides, more people will come forward if publicity is accelerated."

Till 2:30pm yesterday -- the ninth day of the countrywide mass vaccination--around 22.5 lakh people from all around the country registered online.

Of them, 13.6 lakh people were vaccinated.

The mass inoculation drive began on February 7 with an initial aim to vaccinate 60 lakh frontline workers and people aged 55 and above by this month.

The government, on January 27, opened online registration on www.surokkha.gov.bd.

Due to a tepid response in the online registration system, the health directorate brought down the target from 60 lakh to 35 lakh on February 3. On Saturday, however, the target was raised to 70 lakh.

The vaccination campaign gained momentum after the age limit was relaxed to 40 from 55 on February 8.

Dr Shamsul Haque Mridha, member secretary of the National Vaccination Campaign at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), said, "People's response is growing day by day… We will conduct campaigns throughout the month if needed."

Among the eight divisions, the lowest number of people vaccinated till yesterday was in Barishal, while Dhaka had the highest number of vaccinations -- around 3.75 lakh.

In Barishal division, 3.48 lakh doses of Covid-19 vaccine were allocated. Of them, only 63,659 were used till yesterday.

Dr Basudev Kumar Das, Barishal divisional health director, pointed out multiple factors behind low vaccination numbers in the division.

"There is lack of awareness among people here. Moreover, communication is a big issue in Barishal division. We also face obstacles while providing support to the people to register thanks to slow internet," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

However, he said more people are coming forward every day. "We have assigned our field-level staffers, like community health care providers, to provide door-to-door registration services," he added.

In Sylhet, 4.40 lakh doses of the vaccine were delivered for four districts. Among them, 2.28 lakh doses for Sylhet, 84,000 Sunamganj, 60,000 for Moulvibazar and 72,000 for Habiganj.

Till yesterday, around 1.06 lakh people were vaccinated.

Dr Anisur Rahman, assistant director (disease control) of Sylhet divisional health office, said, "The response was poor the first few days and the pace is gaining momentum slowly, but it is still not satisfactory."

"Among priority-listed people, not many are responding. We're contacting their offices to convince them. Meanwhile, the general public isn't aware, even though our awareness campaigns are ongoing," he said.

In Rajshahi division, health staffers are struggling to bring people to the vaccine centres.

Health workers have been engaged across eight districts to visit people door to door and bring them to the vaccination centres, reported our Rajshahi correspondent.

The centres have also been facilitated with laptops and internet to assist vaccine-seekers with online registration.

The response, however, is still unsatisfactory, officials said.

The division received 6.72 lakh doses and a total of 15.37 lakh people were jabbed till yesterday.

"We're trying to improve the situation by extending the vaccination programme to the union level. We think people are becoming apathetic due to the lowering rate of infection," said Dr Habibul Ahsan Talukder, Rajshahi's Divisional Director of the DGHS.

Rajshahi Civil Surgeon Dr Quiume Talukder said, "People in urban areas are registering more than those in rural areas, many of whom are avoiding journeys to the upazila headquarters for vaccination," he said.

In Mymensingh division, a total of 5.04 lakh doses of vaccines were allocated. Till yesterday, 60,602 people have been vaccinated.

Dr Md Shah Alam, division director (Health), said more and more people are getting vaccinated after awareness against rumours about the vaccine.

In Khulna division, a total of 5.88 lakh doses of vaccines were allocated and 1.53 people were vaccinated.

While in Rangpur, six lakh doses were allocated while around 1.27 lakh people were jabbed.

Contacted, Chattogram's divisional health director could not provide information in this regard.

(Our correspondents from Sylhet, Khulna, Rajshahi, Chattogram, Dinajpur, Mymensingh and Chattogram contributed to the report.)

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