Runu Veronica Costa, 39, a Catholic senior staff nurse at state-run Kurmitola General Hospital in capital Dhaka, received the first shot of Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh on Jan. 27. (Photo: Press Information Department)
A Catholic nurse has become the first person to get a shot of Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh as the South Asian nation launched a countrywide pilot vaccination program.
Runu Veronica Costa, 39, a senior staff nurse at state-run Kurmitola General Hospital in capital Dhaka, received the first shot of the vaccine followed by government officials and others on Jan. 27.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the vaccination drive by video conference and expressed hope that it will help people to keep the coronavirus at bay.
Covid-19 has infected 533,444 people and caused 8,072 deaths in Bangladesh, according to government data.
Costa was clearly not concerned and showed courage as she prepared to get the shot from a fellow nurse during the program that was telecast live amid a media frenzy over the event.
As Hasina asked her whether she was afraid, Costa replied, “No.” The premier lauded her by saying that she was “very brave.” Later, Hasina also talked with four others listed for shots and encouraged them to stay strong.
In a separate message, the PM said it was “a historic day” for Bangladesh and sought the cooperation of everyone to make the campaign a success. She also slammed a vested group that spread misinformation including a claim that the vaccine has severe side effects.
Thousands of people including Catholic officials took to social media to congratulate and encourage Costa as the news circulated on Jan. 26 that she was going to get the first Covid-19 vaccine shot.
“We are proud of you, Runu,” many wrote on Facebook, the most popular social media platform.
Costa, a mother of two and a member of St. Rita’s Catholic Church in Pabna district, considers herself fortunate to be the first person vaccinated in the country.
Since the pandemic struck Bangladesh in March last year, Costa has been one of many frontline doctors and nurses to defy the serious risks and serve patients while leaving their families aside for months.
“I feel proud to be first recipient of the vaccine in Bangladesh. I have taken a vow to serve the people as a nurse and I took the vaccine to serve others by giving them courage,” Costa told UCA News.
“I think everyone should get vaccinated without any fear,” she added.
A total of 26 people were vaccinated on Jan. 27, government health officials said. Among them were frontline doctors, nurses, law enforcement and journalists.
The government will vaccinate some 500 people in five designated state hospitals in Dhaka for the trial run as per the mandate of the World Health Organization before launching nationwide vaccination from Feb. 7.
Bangladesh has selected Covishield vaccine developed jointly by the University of Oxford and British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. The vaccine has been imported from the Serum Institute of India.
Health officials said the first batch of 30 million doses will arrive on Feb. 1, while India gifted Bangladesh two million doses on Jan. 21.
The government plans to vaccinate about 80 percent of Bangladesh's more than 160 million people in five stages.