Centre’s COVID-19 vaccination policy for 18-plus age group unfair to states, says Punjab CM

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Express News Service

CHANDIGARH: Terming the new vaccination policy for the 18-plus age group unfair to states, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Friday sought central government funding for this purpose, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

On the vaccination front, at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual conference to discuss the Covid situation with Chief Ministers of the worst hit states, he said at the rates declared by one manufacturer, the cost to the Punjab government will be over Rs 1000 crore. He sought central government funding for vaccination, with permission to make the cost a fit charge on SDRF funds in the interim.

Amarinder also expressed concern over lack of clarity on the quantity of vaccine to be made available by the Centre after May 1 and how the manufacturers will regulate supplies to different states and private purchasers. The state government, on its part, has constituted an Expert Group under virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang to advise on the vaccination strategy for people aged 18 to 45, which states have been allowed to carry out at their cost, he disclosed.

Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain, he further said, adding that due to supply shortage, vaccinations in the last one week had been slightly low, i.e. around 75,000 to 80,000 daily. While Punjab received fresh supplies yesterday, the current stocks can last only three days as demand for vaccine is increasing, he stressed.
 
He also pointed to the shortage and black-marketing of medicines like Remdesivir and Toci, which he said was creating great panic among the general public. Though the central government was making efforts to increase their supply, a clearer messaging was required to inform the public that they are not magic wands, and also about available substitutes, he stressed. Pointing to the shortage of anti-viral Remdesivir injections and zero availability of Toci injections in the state, he said hospitals were, however, following treatment protocol for critical patients and using alternate medicines.

While his government has adopted all measures to minimize demand for oxygen, given the criticality of it as the most essential drug for treatment of serious Covid patients, the Union government must ensure that all commitments as per the allocation are complied with by liquid oxygen manufacturers in other states, he demanded, adding that this is not happening at present. Punjab’s supplies come
from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and there are reports of supplies being hijacked, he said.

Citing the increase in the number of cases to around 5000 per day, with 10 per cent positivity in the last one week, from around 3000 per day with 8 percent positivity, he urged the Prime Minister to direct central institutions like AIIMS Bathinda, PGI Satellite Centres and Military Hospitals in Punjab to provide additional Covid beds. Pre-fab structures on offer by CSIR could be used for this purpose, he said, pointing to the grave situation in the state, with a case fatality rate of 1.4 per cent.



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