Novel coronavirus vaccines are unlikely to be given a dry run in the country. Instead, pilot testing could be conducted on a limited scale to verify their efficacy, according to the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce.
However, experts have said that, like India, Bangladesh should provide a dry run for the jabs before rolling them out.
Dr Shamsul Haque, member secretary of the Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce, told The Business Standard, “We have yet to decide on the issue. However, a preliminary discussion is ongoing about the vaccine being trialled on a small number of people.”
He said they have proposed trials in three places, and an upazila health complex might be selected for vaccine trials.
“We would like to see the preparation in black and white by vaccinating some people before the onset of a national Covid-19 vaccination programme,” he added.
On Friday, India conducted its third dry run for the nationwide Covid-19 inoculation programme. As per the statement from the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the dry run was conducted across 4,895 session sites, which in turn were spread across 615 districts in 33 states and union territories, reports Fortune India.
Earlier, the country saw two such iterations of the programme. These series of dry runs were conducted before the onset of the actual vaccination programme.
In this context, Dr Shamsul Haque said, “India is a very big country. It has vaccines, and is doing dry runs, trials, everything.But, we need to import them. That is the reality.”
He added that he had been to Chattogram, the day prior, to see the preparations and hold talks with the divisional director and civil surgeon, who will be working there.
After watching one or two divisions in this way, discussions will be held on preparations across the whole country.
Dr AFM Ruhal Haque, former health minister, told an event on Saturday, that there is a need to start a dry run like India before starting the vaccination campaign nationally so that if any problem arises during mass immunisation, it can be solved.
However, Virologist Prof Nazrul Islam, also member of the National Technical Advisory Committee of Covid-19, ran counter to the former health minister.
He told The Business Standard that a dry run is not the key issue here.
“We need to administer the jabs properly and watch for an adverse reaction. Additionally, a limited number of people should be tested for their antibodies after giving them the vaccine shots,” he continued.
Vaccinations should not create divisions in society
The vaccines should be administered maintaining transparency, based on scientific reasoning, experts said, adding that research needs to be done on whether all people want to get the jabs.
They said this at a dialogue titled “Covid-19 Vaccine Management: Context Bangladesh” organised by Health Reporters Forum in Bangladesh at the Bangladesh Medical Association auditorium, in the capital, on Saturday morning.
Prof Sayedur Rahman, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Department of Pharmacology, presented his keynote speech at the programme.
He said the success of vaccine activities depends on transparency. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that tension anddivisions in society are not created between those who got vaccinated and those who did not.
Public Health Expert Abu Jamil Faisal said it is important to have a survey as to whether everyone in the society wants to be vaccinated.
Prof Dr Rashid-E-Mahbub, chairman of the National Committee on Health Rights Movement, said the Ministry of Health itself is not transparent. The nation has suffered before because of its mismanagement and will suffer the same in the future.
“You are saying that the Ministry of Health will create an app. How long will it take to create the app? Can everyone access the app and what will be the quality of the app?” he asked.
“These are the questions remaining unanswered,” he said, adding, “This is required to clarify who will be given the vaccines for free, because at first, the [novel] coronavirus test was also free, but fees were later charged.”
Joining the virtual programme, Prof Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, said, “Those who are at high risk of infection and spreading infection, and of complications or death if infected, will be given priority.”
“We are working on online registration for the enrolment of those who will get the vaccine, and the app that we will create is almost complete,” she added.
Mentioning that the vaccination programme is a major challenge, Sabrina said in the first phase, five million vaccines will likely be available, and it is not certain when Covax will arrive. It might be between February and June.
“Those who will be vaccinated in the first phase will be vaccinated separately, because everyone has an expectation to get the vaccine shot. This is a big challenge,” she continued.
Since the vaccines are new, there is a risk of side effects, warned Sabrina.
“But we are mulling over steps to manage any possible side effects after vaccination,” she said.
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