Vaccinate the mothers-to-be, new moms
The national expert committee on Covid-19 vaccination yesterday recommended providing vaccines to expecting and lactating mothers after the High Court on the same day asked the government to finalise its decision in this regard within 72 hours.
Speaking to The Daily Star, Dr Benazir Ahmed, member of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG), said, "We recommended this in a meeting held on July 31. We considered the suggestion from the World Health Organization and experiences from different countries."
He said there was also a demand from the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Bangladesh (OGSB) to the ministry in this regard.
"Four Supreme Court lawyers, including Mohammad Humayun Kabir Pallab, collectively submitted the writ petition to the HC on Saturday seeking its directives on the government to provide Covid-19 vaccine to expecting mothers on priority basis in order to protect their health."
NITAG is a committee formed by the health services division of the health ministry, which advises the government about the immunisation programme.
The recommendation came after the court ordered Attorney General AM Amin Uddin to communicate with the authorities concerned of the government to finalise its decision and make an announcement.
The HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim passed the order verbally during a hearing on a writ petition that sought the HC's directive to provide Covid-19 vaccine to expecting mothers on a priority basis.
During the hearing, the HC bench said the authorities concerned of the government, including the National Technical Advisory Committee and the NITAG are reportedly thinking and working on the issue. Enayetur Rahim read out some portions of a report published on The Daily Star on August 1 -- "Covid-19 Vaccine: A costly dilemma over pregnant women?
The petition said receiving the vaccine was a constitutional right of expecting mothers, but the issue was not included in the government's Surokkha App, the vaccine registration App.
The lawyers stated that around 35 lakh women of the country become pregnant per year which means that 35 lakh women carry existences of at least 35 lakh people more every year, but thousands of expecting mothers and children are dying due to Covid-19 infection.
"The deaths of expecting mothers and their children can be reduced if they are vaccinated on a priority basis."
The petitioners prayed to the HC to pass directives to the health secretary, principal secretary at the Prime Minister's Office, cabinet secretary, directorate general of The Directorate General of Health Services and director of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research to take necessary measures to this effect.
Earlier, Prof Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, DG of the DGHS, told the journalists they will decide if the expert committee recommend for vaccinating expecting and lactating mothers.
On May 31 last year, the HC bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim, following a writ petition, directed the authorities concerned to conduct necessary tests, including that of Covid-19, and provide treatments to expecting women on a priority basis at all government and private hospitals across the country.