COVID-19 vaccine to be supplied free of cost in govt health facilities: Punjab CM

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Chandigarh, Apr 22 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday said that COVID-19 vaccine will be supplied free of cost in all government healthcare facilities.

He also said that vaccination of people in the age group 18-45 will be undertaken from May 1. At present, those above 45 years and above are eligible for the inoculation.

Keeping in view the limited supplies of vaccine expected initially, the chief minister constituted an expert group, comprising eminent virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, Dr Jacob John, Professor of Community Health at CMC Vellore and Dr Rajesh Kumar, former Head School of Public Health PGIMER in Chandigarh to suggest a detailed strategy of prioritisation in the 18-45 age group.

He tasked the expert group with chalking out a vaccination strategy and submit a detailed plan to the state government within a week to meet the challenge in midst of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Singh on Thursday chaired a meeting to review the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the state, an official statement said here.

Kang, who attended the meeting as a special invitee, emphasised the need to have a proper strategy to combat the ongoing second wave of the infection, with geographical saturation in high case load cities such as Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Mohali, and Patiala.

She also stressed on prioritisation on the basis of medical need (serious comorbidity) and on the basis of occupational groups such as teachers.

The chief minister was informed that the state had received four lakh more doses of Covishield vaccine from the Centre on Thursday.

As these were likely to last the state for only three or four more days as per the pace of the vaccination drive, he asked the Health Department to vigorously take up with the Centre the issue of ensuring more supply Covishield vaccine, besides getting requisite stock of Covaxin doses as well.

On reports of black marketing of anti-viral drugs like remdesivir and tocilizumab in the country, Singh said the experts have given clear protocols on the use of such medicines, which must be duly publicised and followed in right earnest.

Dr KK Talwar, head of the COVID expert task force, referred to some studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that have shown that remdesivir may not have any significant impact on mortality.

Further, there were alternatives for tocilizumab and protocols of management of serious and critical patients are being regularly shared in the expert group of doctors.

The chief ministere directed that the state should continue to procure such drugs for patients who may benefit from their use, and provide the same to government hospitals and also support private hospitals, as was already being done. PTI CHS VSD AAR AAR