The health ministry has started to work on a plan to include university teachers and students in the inoculation campaign to comply with a government decision.
Education Minister Dipu Moni Monday said the universities will reopen in May after vaccinating the teachers and students.
Soon after the announcement, Health Minister Zahid Maleque sat with the officials of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) at his office.
"In the meeting, we have been instructed to make an inoculation plan for the university students and teachers," Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme, told The Daily Star yesterday.
He, however, did not provide the details on how they would work out the plan.
Contacted, Health Secretary Abdul Mannan told this newspaper yesterday that they were waiting for the education ministry to give them a plan.
"We will work on that once we will receive it from the education ministry," said Abdul Mannan.
After the cabinet meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed the education ministry to review whether educational institutions, which have been closed since March 17 last year due to the pandemic, could be reopened.
Hours after the prime minister's directive, Education Minister Dipu Moni said that in-person classes at universities will resume on May 24 after the Eid-ul-Fitr.
The student dormitories at those universities will reopen on May 17, she said.
All procedures to this end will be completed following the health guidelines, she said, adding that 1.30 lakh residential students, 15,000 teachers, and other staff members of public universities would be vaccinated before May 17.
"Vaccination is a must for students if they want to return to their halls," she said.
No examinations will be held at those universities before the reopening. But online classes will continue, the minister said.
Experts, however, said educational institutions irrespective of universities should be reopened immediately and vaccination for students and teachers can also run simultaneously.
"The plan for reopening educational institutions after vaccination is not a realistic one. The World Health Organization (WHO) has instructed to go for reopening if the positivity rate remains stagnant below five percent for more than two weeks. We have this situation here for around a month and we can reopen step by step by ensuring health rules," Mushtaq Hussain, consultant of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) told The Daily Star yesterday.
He said that further delay is not good for the education sector.
"The residential institutions should be reopened first. The daily academic activities can be arranged in shifts by reducing the time and number of the students. And the vaccination can be done simultaneously."
There are 48 public and 107 private universities, including the National University, in the country. About 41 lakh students are currently enrolled in public universities and their affiliated colleges, while the private universities have around 3.50 lakh students.
SECOND DOSE LIKELY FROM APRIL 7
Health Minister Zahid Maleque told reporters yesterday that the government is planning to start administering the second dose of Covid-19 vaccine from April 7
"Everything will depend on the availability of the vaccines," the minister said while addressing a press conference at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Affairs.
He called upon women to take the vaccine as there is a gap between the male and female recipients.
"We have received 20 lakh doses of vaccine early today (yesterday) but we were supposed to get 50 lakh," the minister said, adding that the government is asking the Serum Institute of India (manufacturer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine) to send more as soon as possible.
But the supplier is also under pressure due to the huge demand for vaccines in India, he added.
"Some new suppliers have also applied for supplying vaccine (to us). We are considering those," the minister said.
Bangladesh is expected to receive 1.31 lakh doses of Pfizer vaccine under the COVAX arrangement by the end of this month, according to health officials.
The country is expected to get 6.8 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Covax, the global vaccine alliance.
The minister also said those who will travel abroad will require a Covid-19 negative certificate even after taking two shots of covid vaccines.
Bangladesh started the mass inoculation campaign on February 7 with 70 lakh Oxford vaccine shots in hand. Apart from the 50 lakh doses of purchased vaccine, the country received another 20 lakh doses of Covishield from the Indian government as a gift.
After two revisions, the government now plans to vaccinate 70 lakh people in the first month.
Meanwhile, the number of people who have registered on www.surokkha.gov.bd rose to 3,646,970.
Of them, around 2,491,053 lakh have been given the shots, including yesterday's 182,896.