There is nothing to fear about inoculation. "I have taken the jab and I encourage all to come for vaccination," Runu Veronica Costa told the media hours after becoming the first person to get immunised against Covid-19.
"I am feeling alright both physically and mentally. I would like to thank the Almighty first. I also express my gratitude to the prime minister," said Runu, a senior staff nurse at Kurmitola General Hospital.
Bangladesh has moved a step ahead in its endeavour to tame the tide of Covid-19 with the launch of the vaccination drive on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina from her official residence Ganabhaban virtually inaugurated the programme, which aims to vaccinate 20% of the country's population with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
The prime minister asked nurse Runu if she was scared to take the vaccine first in Bangladesh. Runu replied in the negative.
"You are very brave," the premier said, lauding Runu's courage.
Sheikh Hasina asked all concerned to work with utmost sincerity to make the vaccination programme a success.
Prof Nazrul Islam, noted virologist and former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, told The Business Standard, "This is a watershed moment for us. The vaccination started in the country. Everyone needs to receive the jab to prevent coronavirus transmission."
However, he believes the government first will have to build people's confidence in the vaccination campaign. To do so, he suggested conducting mass campaigns involving public representatives and government officials.
He added the absence of foreign consultants and skilled workers has slowed down many megaprojects. They will return if the vaccination yields success.
Ahsan H Mansur said many countries have restricted access of Bangladeshis fearing the spread of the virus. "If vaccination succeeds, the bans will go away. This will widen the scopes for manpower export and trades," he added.
However, the vaccination must prove its credibility to the globe before tapping all the benefits.
Ahsan H Mansur also recommended using the experiences of the countries who already have begun the inoculation.
Rizwan Ahmed, president of the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told TBS that the vaccination programme will help reopen social engagement and production process in industries, which will help GDP growth bounce back to the projected 8% plus again.
An effective vaccination programme is crucial for the revival of the economy, he said.
Alongside Runu, Dr Ahmed Lutful Moben, a physician at Kurmitola General Hospital, Professor Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general at the Directorate General of Health Services, Didarul Islam, additional deputy commissioner of police, and Brigadier General M Imran Hamid of Bangladesh Army also received the vaccine doses.
Besides, 21 more people, including renowned dentist Dr Arup Ratan Chowdhury, Central Police Hospital Doctor Afroza Zahin and Nurse Mosharraf Hossain, Police Sergeant Abdur Rahim were inoculated at Kurmitola General Hospital.
All of them were kept under physicians' supervision after administering them with the shots. They were allowed to go home after 30 minutes. Doctors said no one showed any side effects after vaccination.
The health directorate will do regular follow-up of their physical conditions, said Meerjady Sabrina Flora, additional director general at the health directorate.
Professor Flora said vaccine recipients can get health advice by dialling Shastho Batayon number (16263) and the hotline number (333).
"Some 26 people have been vaccinated today [Wednesday] although we made a list of 32. The remaining six were not physically fit for the jab," she added.
Work with sincerity for success of Covid-19 vaccination: PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked all concerned to work with utmost sincerity to make the Covid-19 vaccination programme a success.
"We want protection for all from the coronavirus. I want to say to you all to work with sincerity to make the Covid-19 vaccination a success. We want cooperation from all so that everything goes well to this end," she said, inaugurating the vaccination campaign at the Kurmitola General Hospital through videoconferencing from her official Ganabhaban residence.
The premier said the vaccination programme has been taken following all the guidelines and protocols of the World Health organisation (WHO).
Describing 27 January as a historic day for Bangladesh, she said, "Many countries of the world are yet to start vaccination. But, we have started it despite being a country of vast population and limited resources."
Sheikh Hasina said though the vaccination programme has been taken following the protocols of the WHO, some people are out to criticise the initiative as they have a disease of feeling bad over anything good for the nation.
"They feel unwell when good things happen. Feeling unwell is a disease. I do not know whether there is any treatment or vaccine for the disease," she added.
Despite the fact, she said, the government is ready to administer them with vaccines as their criticism inspires them to work with urgency in procuring the Covid-19 vaccine.
The prime minister said they have signed a tripartite agreement to bring 3.40 crore doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca as a gift and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Of those, 50 lakh shots of vaccines have already arrived in Bangladesh and the rest will reach soon while the Indian government has sent 20 lakh doses of it as a gift, she said.
Frontline people who received the shots
Doctors and nurses, armed forces personnel, police, journalists, freedom fighters and public officials were among the people who received the shots on the very beginning of the immunisation.
The vaccine recipients are – Runu Veronica Costa, Dr Ahmed Lutful Moben, Professor Dr Nasima Sultana, Md Didarul Islam, Brigadier General M Imran Hamid, Md Mazedul Islam, Shanjida Sultana, Md Abdul Halim, Md Enamul Hasan, Md Hamza, Shammi Akhter, Dr Al Mamun Shahriar Sarkar, Dr Farida Yasmin, Dr Afroza Jahin, Dr Arup Ratan Chowdhury, Professor Dr Abdul Kader Khan, Major General Mahbubur Rahman, Md Abdur Rahim, Kazi Jasim Uddin, Mosharraf Hossain, Masud Rayhan Polash, Md Al-Masum Molla, Amirul Momenin, Munni Khatun, Md Ashiful Islam and Dewan Hemayet Hossain.
Recipients urge people to take the shot
"How can I tell others to get vaccinated if I do not take it beforehand? So I took the shot today, you will also take it when you get the opportunity," Professor Dr Nasima Sultana of the health directorate said.
"I am not feeling unwell," Prof Nasima told the press after receiving the Covid jab.
"We the people on the frontline have been working since March last year. As a health directorate official, I wanted to help others by informing them on the immunisation," she added.
"After administering the shot, the injecting spot on the skin may turn slightly red. Some may develop nausea and high body temperature which is perfectly okay. It is not correct that the vaccine will cause any serious side effects," Dr Nasima assured.
"Fifteen minutes have passed since I have received the dose and there are no side effects," said renowned dentist Dr Arup Ratan Chowdhury.
"The vaccine has come as a blessing for us. I took it, and others should take it too," Dr Ratan added.
Hamza Shahidul, acting director of Al-Markazul Islami Bangladesh, said everyone at the beginning of the pandemic was afraid to bury the dead. Then we came forward. Now I got vaccinated, and I am fine. I want others to come forward to get the vaccine.
Immunisation of health workers at BSMMU, Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Mugda and Kuwait-Maitri Hospitals will start on Thursday. The countrywide vaccination will begin on 7 February.
Those interested in getting the Covid vaccine will have to register on "Surokkha" web portal at www.surokkha.gov.bd. People will also be able to get registered after downloading the Surokkha mobile app from Android or Apple Play Store.
Bangladesh has recorded 533,444 Covid-19 cases so far and stands 31st among the countries with the most virus infections in the world.
The country currently has 70 lakh doses of the vaccine Covishield in stock. Of those 50 lakh doses were purchased and 20 lakh doses were gifted by India.