Bangladesh starts Covid-19 vaccine drive for Rohingya refugees

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FILED - Anyone with a history of overreaction to certain medications may want to seek advice from an allergy specialist before receiving a coronavirus vaccine. Photo: Peter Kneffel/dpa
FILED - Anyone with a history of overreaction to certain medications may want to seek advice from an allergy specialist before receiving a coronavirus vaccine. Photo: Peter Kneffel/dpa

Bangladesh has begun rolling out inoculations against Covid-19 for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims living in crowded refugee camps after they fled persecution in neighbouring Myanmar, officials said on Tuesday.

The health coordinator of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, Abu Toha Bhuiyan, said some 48,600 residents aged 55 years and older have been listed for the jab across 34 refugee camps in the first phase.

“They will be given the doses in the next three days from today (Tuesday),” Bhuiyan said after the government’s local health office along with the United Nations High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR) and other aid agencies began the campaign in the morning.

More people will become eligible subject to availability of the doses, he said.

Bangladesh has been hosting more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims in sprawling camps in its south-eastern 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.

Case numbers are reportedly rising in the camps, with health officials registering 2,662 infections and 28 deaths among refugees since the first case emerged in the camps in May last year.

Television footage showed the refugees queuing outside the immunization centres where the jabs were being administered.

The UN refugee agency tweeted photographs of the vaccine recipients in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

“I feel really good,” the agency quoted 64-year old Johura Khatun, the first Rohingya woman to receive the jab, as saying in one of the tweets.

A country of more than 160 million, Bangladesh has so far administered a first dose to 14.05 million people and the second dose to 4.7 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 due to the arrival of the more transmissible Delta variant, interrupted its campaign in April after India suspended vaccine exports over supply shortages.

Mass inoculation, however, resumed last month after Bangladesh started receiving doses from China and the United States.

Bangladesh has logged more than 1.37 million infections and 22,897 deaths since the first cases were reported in March last year.

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