Punjab CM seeks central funding for COVID vaccination drive

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Chandigarh, Apr 23 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday described the vaccination policy for 18-plus as 'unfair' towards the states and demanded central funding for it.

In an online meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the COVID-19 situation, the CM also sought parity in rates of the vaccine to be given to the states and the Centre, according to a statement.

Describing the new policy for the 18-plus as 'unfair' towards the states, the CM said at rates declared by one manufacturer, the vaccination programme will cost Punjab over Rs 1,000 crore.

Demanding central funding for the vaccination drive, Amarinder Singh also sought permission for the use of the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF), according to the statement.

Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain, he said, adding that due to short supply, the number of people who took the jab in the past one week has been slightly low at 75-80,000 daily.

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

Amarinder Singh 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 for advice on the vaccination strategy for those aged 18-45, he said.

While his government has adopted all measures to minimise the demand for medical oxygen, the Centre must ensure that all commitments as per allocation are complied with by manufacturers in other states, he demanded.

“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.

Pointing to the 'shortage' of anti-viral Remdesivir injections, 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 per cent positivity in the last one week, the CM urged the prime minister to direct central institutions like the AIIMS, Bathinda, and military hospitals in Punjab to provide additional COVID beds.

Punjab has not received any fresh results on viral genome sequencing in the past almost a month, when the last results showed over 85 per cent UK strain, he said, urging Modi to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations and their implications for proper policy response.

Treatment of COVID patients has been scaled up and all hospitals have been asked to reserve 75 per cent of their beds for infection patients. Hospitals have been told to postpone all elective surgeries till May 15, he said.

On testing and contact tracing, he said testing had gone up to 55-60,000 tests a day. PTI VSD SUN RDK