Punjab CM write to Centre, demands increase in oxygen quota; to order more vaccines



CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Sunday wrote to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, urging for an increase in the state’s medical oxygen quota.

This is the second time in as many days when the chief minister has written to the Centre, highlighting depleting supplies.

Currently, the daily consumption of medical oxygen in the state is around 200 metric tonnes (MT), which is expected to rise to around 250-300 MT in the next two weeks.

The CM directed Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to pursue the matter with the Union government, with the caseload increasing due to an influx of patients from Delhi and other neighbouring states, pushing up the demand for medical oxygen, a statement said.

He also directed to rush urgent supplies to Amritsar, where six people died due to a shortage of oxygen at a private hospital on Saturday.

He also asked the Principal Secretary (Industries) to report him after every four hours about the hospital-wise demand for oxygen.

“Today’s letter to the Union health minister followed the Centre’s failure to increase the allocation to Punjab as per the new allocation of liquid medical oxygen issued on Saturday, despite a plea for enhancement to at least 250 MT (metric tonnes) of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) per day,” the statement said.

The CM on Sunday wrote, “The situation has become very grim over the past a few days as our supply of LMO has not been able to meet the increased demand.”

Amarinder Singh said despite his request for the allocation of at least 250 MT of oxygen per day to Punjab from outside the state, the demand was not met.

He said Punjab does not have any major liquid medical oxygen production capacity and is largely dependent on the supply from other states, thus necessitating the minister’s urgent intervention.

Currently, the daily allocation of medical oxygen to Punjab from the Central pool is 105 MT, excluding the production of the local units which generate around 60 MT of liquid oxygen.

There are a few pressure swing adsorption (PSA) plants in government and private hospitals which cater to part of their demands and add to the pool of oxygen available for the state.

The state has a capacity to store around 370 MT of liquid oxygen.

He also directed the health department to order 30 lakh doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield, from the Serum Institute of India for vaccination of the 18-45 age group.

He also gave directions to use the Chief Minister Relief Fund for meeting the vaccine requirements of the poor.

Singh asked the department to immediately place an order for the 30 lakh doses with the Serum Institute of India so that the supplies can start coming in at the earliest, even though as per information provided by the central government for delivery of vaccines for the 18-45 age group is not expected before May 15, according to a government statement here.

To ensure free vaccination of the poor in government hospitals, he said in addition to the CM COVID relief fund, CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds should also be tapped into.

The Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) should be asked to support the vaccination of industrial workers covered in the scheme, and the Board for Welfare of Construction Workers for construction labourers, Singh added.

Reviewing the vaccination strategy, the chief minister requested the expert group led by virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang to submit the strategy for prioritisation of the 18-45 years group (vulnerable groups in high risk areas – high transmission, high mortality, including construction workers and industrial workers, in its first report by April 29).

He also said that in pursuing the 18-45 age group vaccination strategy, the state government will not compromise on vaccination of the 45-plus age group.

  The chief minister further said the government will consider approaching Astrazeneca (India) directly to allow the Punjab government to avail the lower price of Rs 162 per dose available to the global community.

The state has so far received 29,36,770 doses of Covishield and 3.34 lakh doses of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.

Out of the available stock of vaccine till April 22, 25.48 lakh doses of Covishield and 2.64 lakh doses of indigenously developed COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin had been utilised, leaving the state with only 2.81 lakh doses of Covishield and 27,400 doses of Covaxin in its stock.

The health department had on April 22 written to the Union health ministry seeking additional supply of 10 lakh doses of Covishield, to be made available on priority to enable the state to meet its immediate requirement.

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