Bangladesh's government and aid agencies have started vaccinating Rohingya refugees as a virus surge raises health risks in the sprawling camps where more than 1 million people are sheltering after fleeing Myanmar.
The highly transmissible delta variant is driving an infection surge across Bangladesh, with around 20,000 infections and 200 deaths recorded so far in Cox's Bazar district, the southern region bordering Myanmar where the 34 refugee camps are located.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said a national positivity rate of around 30 per cent indicates the spread of COVID-19 is much higher, especially in the cramped conditions of refugee camps.
The government's Civil Surgeon's office in Cox's Bazar and aid agencies began the vaccination campaign across 34 camps alongside Bangladesh's national vaccination effort.
About 500 Bangladesh Red Crescent staff and volunteers joined the health workers for the campaign in collaboration with the UN refugee agency, according to a statement from the international body.
Rohingya community leaders, front-line health care volunteers in the camps, and Rohingya older than 55 are in the first group to be vaccinated. Over 65,000 of the nearly 900,000 refugees will be vaccinated in the first cohort, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said in an email to The Associated Press.
Bangladesh has reported more than 1.3 million infections, including 22,897 deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.