Coronavirus | Punjab CM calls for Centre-State parity in vaccination from May 1

At virtual meet with PM, Capt. Amarinder also asks for adequate oxygen, clearer messaging on essential drugs

Published - April 23, 2021 06:55 pm IST - CHANDIGARH:

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. File Photo.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. File Photo.

Describing the new vaccination policy for the 18 years and above age group as unfair to the States, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday sought Centre-State parity in vaccination from May 1, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.

While his government had adopted all measures to minimise the demand for oxygen given its necessity in treating critically ill COVID-19 patients, the Centre must ensure compliance on allocation by liquid oxygen manufacturers in other States, Mr. Singh said. “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 at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual conference to discuss the COVID-19 crisis with Chief Ministers of the worst-hit States.

On the vaccination front, the Chief Minister said that at the rates declared by one manufacturer, the cost to the Punjab government would be over ₹1,000 crore. He sought Central government funding for vaccination, with permission to fit the cost to funds available with the State Disaster Response Force in the interim.

Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain to the last vaccination booth, he said, adding that due to supply shortage, vaccination in last one week has been slightly low, that is, around 75,000-80,000 shots daily. While Punjab had received fresh vaccine supplies on Thursday, the current stocks could last only for three days as the demand for vaccine is increasing, he stressed.

Captain Amarinder also expressed concern over lack of clarity on the quantity of vaccines to be made available by Centre after May 1, and how manufacturers would regulate supplies to different States and private buyers. The State government, on its part, had constituted an Expert Group to advise on Punjab’s vaccination strategy for the 18-45 years age group, which States had been allowed to vaccinate at their cost, he said.

The CM also pointed to the shortage and blackmarketing of medicines like Remdesivir and Toci, which he said was creating great panic in the media and general public. Though the Central government was making efforts to increase their supply, clearer messaging was required to inform the public that these medicines were not magic wands, and also on the available substitutes, he said. Pointing to the shortage of anti-viral Remdesivir injections and “zero availability” of Toci injections in Punjab, 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 5,000 per day with 10% positivity in the last one week, up from around 3,000 cases per day with 8% positivity during the previous video conference on April 8, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to direct Central institutions like the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bathinda; the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research satellite centres, and military hospitals in Punjab, to provide additional beds for COVID-19 patients. Pre-fab structures on offer by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research 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 previous almost a month, when the last results showed over 85% prevalence of the U.K. strain, Captain Singh urged the Prime Minister to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations, and their implications for a proper policy response. He also urged the Government of India to build a consensus on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour to check the spread of the virus.

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