January 14, 2022
DHAKA – Hundreds of vaccine seekers, not enough space for social distancing, inadequate number of attendants to organise jab recipients and confusion about whether certain doses will be administered.
This was the state of Covid-19 vaccine administration at the vaccine centre in Nagar Matrisadan in the capital’s Mugda yesterday.
On the first day of fresh government restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus and its highly transmissible Omicron variant, hundreds gathered at the centre to be vaccinated, enduring hardship as well as the risk of contracting Covid.
This correspondent spent about three hours in front of the centre from 9:00am and talked to at least 20 vaccine recipients about the management. After entering the centre, the correspondent saw there were only two booths administering vaccines to the huge turnout.
There were several hundred vaccine seekers gathered in front of the venue in the morning. Even as Covid cases surge, they were all crowded together as there seemed to be no separate lines for people seeking the first, second or third doses.
Their presence on the road created a huge traffic jam and there seemed to be no system in place to control the chaos.
Sahera Begum, 32, came to get vaccinated from Dakshingaon area of Khilgaon with her two daughters – one six years old and another a six-month old infant.
Neither daughter was wearing a mask. Sahera said she was forced to stand in such a crowd and risk getting infected along with her children because there was no one at home to take care of them.
“I can’t go and stand far away because I don’t know when my serial will come,” she said.
A volunteer of Bangladesh Red Crescent Society was reading out names serially over a loud speaker. If someone was at the rear of the crowd when called, he or she had to push through the crowd to get jabbed.
“I went to six or seven vaccine centres in Dhaka with my friends or colleagues. None were as bad as this one,” said Abdul Alim, a school teacher who had come to the centre around 10:00am and was still waiting to be called around two hours later.
“They told us no first dose would be provided, and so a lot of vaccine seekers left. Now they are saying they have some vaccines for the first dose,” he added.
CNG station employee Sohel Rana Shuvo lost his mobile phone while waiting outside the centre and then missed his serial because he was talking to a member of police and the person he suspected of stealing his phone.
“When they called my serial, I was with the police and the man [suspected of stealing the phone],” Sohel said. “I have to take another day’s leave to get the vaccine, which will be tough.”
Inside the centre, one of the three attendees was instructing vaccine seekers to keep their sleeves folded, while a nurse was busy filling the syringe with the dose and another was hurrying to jab the recipients.
This correspondent found no space for people to rest after receiving the dose, as is common practice in most centres.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) in its guidelines for Covid vaccination said centres should ensure social distancing, mask wearing and other health measures.
Zakera Hannan Rubayat, project manager of Population Services and Training Center [PSTC], which runs the vaccine centre, said before May last year they had to jab over 600 people a day and now the number is over 1,000.
She said there is a lack of space and manpower.
Contacted, Fazle Shamsul Kabir, chief health officer [in charge] of Dhaka South City Corporation, told The Daily Star that the vaccine centre has had limited facilities since it started.
“It has happened occasionally as there is limited space at the Matrisadan. In recent times, jab seekers who got the text [detailing the date and venue of vaccination] earlier have started to come, which is another reason for the crowd.”
He said they had no way to increase manpower.
The government is planning to provide vaccination to 75 lakh school children aged between 12 and 18 by this month in order to avoid closing educational institutions.
But the students’ vaccination drive was also in a mess, according to guardians.
A guardian who went to the BIAM School and College at Eskaton with his son, said his child entered a centre around 11:15am and was vaccinated around 4:00pm.
“There was a huge gathering inside the school campus as well as at the gate,” he said.
“We went there to be safe from coronavirus, but the gathering is putting us in danger,” he added.