Bangladesh has started its COVID-19 vaccination drive in the capital Dhaka, with plans to administer more than 30 million doses over the next few months.
The first batch of people received the first shot of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine at Dhaka’s Kurmitola General Hospital on Wednesday.
“We have vaccinated five persons with this initiative today. I’ve talked with them just now. All of them are in a sound condition. We haven’t observed any kind of issue with them,” said Zahid Maleque, Bangladesh minister of health and family welfare.
“Apart from these five, 25 more will be vaccinated here in this process today. It’s going on already. Tomorrow, we’ll vaccinate around 500 people in five hospitals simultaneously. And we will start the procedure of vaccination in the whole country from February 7.”
The group that received the vaccine on Wednesday included a nurse, a doctor, a military official, a traffic policeman and a senior official of the government’s health department.
Their vaccinations were broadcast live as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina witnessed the process virtually from her official residence.
“I’m feeling positive on my voluntary participation in this initiative that will inspire others to join. It was a good feeling. And I don’t feel anything bad right now,” said journalist Mohammed Al Masum Ullah, who received the vaccine.
Bangladesh has received seven million vaccine doses from India, including two million as gifts from the Indian government and the rest purchased from the Serum Institute of India.
The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccines, manufactured under license by the Serum Institute of India, will primarily be given to front-line workers, including doctors and nurses.
Bangladesh has recorded 533,000 coronavirus cases and more than 8,000 deaths since March last year.
Vaccination drive for cricket players
The Bangladesh Cricket Board said on Thursday it will vaccinate hundreds of players against the coronavirus by the end of February in a bid to restart domestic tournaments.
Apart from two small events last year and the current tour by the West Indies – which were held in strict bio-bubbles – all play has been suspended since March.
The Bangladesh Cricket Board has ruled out resuming cricket at all levels until all players are vaccinated.
The jabs will be given to the top 500 players as part of the new campaign.
The board did not spell out how it would get the vaccines. But BCB president Nazmul Hassan is also chief executive of Beximco Pharmaceuticals, which has signed a deal to procure 30 million vaccine doses from India for the Bangladesh government.
Beximco said it also plans to buy vaccines to sell on the open market.