Bangladesh plans to start rolling out inoculations against COVID-19 for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in crowded refugee camps next month, says a senior official.
“Subject to availability of the doses, we will begin administering the jabs among Rohingya anytime in August,” Shah Rezwan Hayat, chief of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, told DPA news agency on Friday.
No specific date has been fixed for the campaign, he said.
Initially, the focus is to be on some 50,000 Rohingya above the age of 55, to be vaccinated with the help of the United Nations agencies.
The other refugees will be vaccinated once sufficient doses are available, he said.
Bangladesh has been hosting more than a million Rohingya in sprawling camps in its southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar after they fled persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Nearly 750,000 refugees crossed the border after the brutal military crackdown in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state in 2017, which the UN said was carried out with “genocidal intent”.
Coronavirus cases are reportedly rising in the camps, with health officials registering 2,161 infections with 24 deaths among the Rohingya refugees since the first case emerged in the camps in May last year.
A country of more than 160 million, Bangladesh has so far administered more than 1.05 million doses since its mass vaccination campaign began in early February.
The South Asian country, which has recorded a massive surge in case numbers in recent months, halted its campaign in April after India suspended vaccine exports over supply shortages.
Mass inoculation resumed earlier this month after Bangladesh received 4.5 million doses of the US-made Moderna vaccine and China’s Sinopharm shots.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said earlier this week that the country expects to receive a further 5.9 million doses shortly under the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative.
Bangladesh has logged more than 1.07 million infections and 17,278 deaths since the first cases were reported in March last year.