Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure priority allocation of COVID-19 vaccine to Punjab on account of its higher mortality rate and high levels of co-morbidities in the state.
In a letter to PM Modi, the chief minister said despite its relatively low caseload, Punjab has higher fatality rate due to coronavirus, and, therefore, it needs special attention in the allocation of the vaccine once available. Punjab has so far witnessed 1.55 lakh coronavirus cases and 4,905 deaths.
Pointing out that the vaccines currently under consideration would not perhaps reduce transmission much but prevent the disease from escalating to serious levels, Mr Singh said their best use would therefore be among the most susceptible groups, including the elderly and persons having co-morbidities.
According to a state government release, Mr Singh also wanted to know if the COVID-19 vaccination exercise would be entirely funded by the Centre, including the cost of vaccines and supplies.
He further asked for clarity on the principles based on which the priority groups are to be identified for sequential immunisation phases.
The Chief Minister also sought expansion of the definition of frontline workers for the purpose of immunisation to include administrative officials and others responsible for essential functions.
While the definition of healthcare worker was relatively precise and Punjab had compiled data based on it, the definition of frontline workers lacked clarity, he opined.
As of now, it seemed to include only security forces (police, armed forces) and municipal workers, with some mention of primary school teachers.
The Chief Minister said that while it appeared that private sector healthcare workers would be enumerated and that the Centre also intends to provide vaccines for them, the question did arise if the vaccines will also be provided to other priority groups and the general population, should they wish to receive from government providers.
He thanked the Centre for supporting the state government during the pandemic and congratulated Modi for taking all special steps to make a vaccine available to the citizens of the country.
Mr Singh said Punjab has already undertaken preparatory activities for an effective vaccination programme.
The Chief Minister said that the data of healthcare workers, both in government and private sectors, had been compiled and shared on the digital platform.
The committees for monitoring the vaccination programme at the state and at the district/ block levels had also been formed and ithas started functioning, he said.
Besides, the audit of cold-chain availability for storage and transportation of the vaccine has been conducted and the shortfall in the equipment shared with the central government, he added.
The Chief Minister said that the total requirement of cold chain capacity at different temperatures cannot be clearly defined until the vaccine product is identified and the dosage availability intimated through Centre.
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