Terming the new vaccination policy for 18-plus age group as unfair to the states, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday sought Centre-state parity in vaccination for 18-plus age group from May 1, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.
While his government has adopted all measures to minimise demand for oxygen, given the criticality of it as the most essential drug for treatment of serious Covid patients, the Centre must ensure that all commitments as per the allocation are complied with by liquid oxygen manufacturers in other states, he demanded.
He 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 situation with chief ministers of the worst-hit states.
On the vaccination front, the Chief Minister said at the rates declared by one manufacturer, the cost to the Punjab government will be over Rs 1,000 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 said, adding that due to supply shortage, the vaccination in last one week has been slightly low, ie, around 75,000-80,000 daily. While Punjab received fresh supplies on Thursday, the current stocks could last only three days as demand for vaccine is increasing, he stressed.
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 our vaccination strategy for those from 18-45, which states have been allowed to vaccinate at their cost, he said.
The Chief Minister also pointed to the shortage and blackmarketing of medicines like remdesivir and toci, which, he said, was creating panic in the media and general public. Though the Centre 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 alternative medicines.
Citing the increase in the number of cases to around 5,000 per day, with 10 per cent positivity in the last one week, from around 3,000 per day with 8 per cent positivity during the last virtual conference on April 8, the 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-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.
Expressing concern over the fact that Punjab had not received any fresh results on viral genome sequency in the last almost a month, when the last results showed over 85 per cent UK strain, Amarinder urged the Prime Minister to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations, and their implications for proper policy response. He also urged the Centre 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 Chief Minister said his government had launched a series of containment measures with stringent enforcement. He listed some of the measures in place in the state, and added that micro containment zones are being increased with special monitoring teams.