New vaccination policy for 18-45 age group unfair to states, says Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh

Capt Amarinder Singh also called for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply to Punjab during a virtual conference held on Friday by PM Narendra Modi with CMs of worst-hit states

New vaccination policy for 18-45 age group unfair to states, says Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh

Bipin Bhardwaj

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has termed the new vaccination policy for the 18-45 age group as unfair to the states and sought Centre-State parity in vaccination for this age group from May 1.

He also called for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

The Union government must ensure that all commitments as per the allocation are complied with by liquid oxygen manufacturers in other states, he demanded, pointing out 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 during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual conference to discuss the COVID situation with chief ministers of the worst-hit states.

With regard to the vaccination policy, the Chief Minister said that 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.

Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain to the last vaccination booth, he further said, adding that due to supply shortage, the vaccination in the last one week had been slightly low (around 75-80,000 daily).

While Punjab received fresh supplies yesterday, the current stocks can last only 3 days as demand for the vaccine is increasing, he stressed.

The Punjab CM 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 vaccination strategy for 18-45 year age group, which states have been allowed to vaccinate at their cost, he said.

Capt. Amarinder Singh also pointed to the shortage and black marketing of medicines like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, which he said was creating great panic in the media and the general public. Though the Union government was making efforts to increase their supply, a clearer messaging was required to inform the public that these are not magic wands, and also about available substitutes, he stressed.

Pointing to the shortage of Remdesivir Injections and zero availability of Tocilizumab injections in the state, he said hospitals were, however, following treatment protocol for critical patients and using alternate medicines.

Citing the increase in the number of cases to around 5000 per day, with 10% positivity in the last one week, from around 3000 per day with 8% positivity during the last virtual conference on April 8, the Punjab Chief Minister 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-fabricated 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%.

Expressing concern over the fact that Punjab had not received any fresh results on viral genome sequencing in the last almost a month, when the last results showed over 85% UK strain, Capt. Amarinder Singh urged the Prime Minister to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations and their implications for proper policy response.

He also urged the Government of India to build a consensus on COVID appropriate behaviour to check the spread of the virus.

Assuring the Prime Minister of all-out efforts by his government to combat the COVID spread, the Punjab Chief Minister said his government had launched a series of containment measures with stringent enforcement.

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