The highly transmissible delta variant has caused an epidemic in Bangladesh. There have been around 20,000 cases of infection and 200 deaths so far in Cox's Bazar, the district that borders Myanmar, where the refugee camps are situated.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, a national positivity rate of 30% suggests that COVID-19 has spread much faster than previously thought. This is especially true when you consider the cramped conditions and the risk faced by refugees living in refugee camps.
Along with the national vaccination effort in Bangladesh, the government's Civil Surgeon's Office in Cox's Bazar began the vaccination campaign. It included 34 camps.
According to the statement of the international organization, about 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent employees and volunteers joined the U.N. refugee Agency health workers in the campaign.
The first group of vaccinated is made up of Rohingya community leaders and front-line health care volunteer in camps. Rohingya over 55 years old are also included. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees stated in an email to The Associated Press that 65,000 refugees, which number nearly 900,000., will be vaccinated in this first cohort.
"COVID-19 is spreading all over the globe. "We came here to get vaccinated so that it doesn't harm us," Nurul Islam (65), said as he waited in line for shots with hundreds of refugees at Ukhiya, Cox's Bazar.
Experts believe the true toll could be underestimated as many people aren't able to go to hospitals or die before being tested. Infections from the delta variant spread to India's border areas. There is concern that the lack of awareness regarding masks and following other health guidelines may lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases in densely populated countries.
Only 5% of the 160 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated. In April, India ended exports of AstraZeneca vaccines from Bangladesh. Bangladesh had previously signed a purchase agreement for 30,000,000 doses.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government increased its efforts to obtain vaccines from other sources, especially China. A new round of vaccinations was initiated last weekend.
The country has a large stock of vaccines, mainly from China's Sinopharm. Officials claim that over 3 million people were given shots in the first two days.
In 2017, more than 700,000 Rohingya fled Myanmar's Buddhist-majority Myanmar after a brutal military crackdown against the group. Others Rohingya fled persecution and settled in Bangladeshi refugee camps.
The 2017 crackdown saw rapes, murders and torching of thousands more homes. It was called ethnic cleansing by international rights groups and the United Nations. The Rohingya, despite Bangladesh and Myanmar trying to arrange repatriations for them, are too afraid to return home.