Punjab defers inoculation for 18+ due to 'non-availability' of COVID vaccine

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Chandigarh, Apr 30 (PTI) With a few hours to go for the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination drive for all adults in the country, the Punjab government on Friday deferred the inoculation for this category due to 'non-availability' of the vaccine.

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh deferred Phase III of vaccination, which was slated to begin on May 1, for the 18-45 age group.

Singh made it clear that 'due to non-availability of vaccine, Phase III of vaccination for the 18-45 age group cannot be started as scheduled'.

He also said that all vaccinations at private health facilities will remain suspended from Saturday.

The chief minister said as the balance of unutilised vaccines had to be returned to the Government of India by all private health facilities by Friday evening, these facilities would have no vaccines to administer from Friday for 45+ population, while they could not vaccinate 18-45 age group as they had no supplies for the same.

According to an official statement, Singh said his government was pursuing the matter of vaccine shortage with the Centre, as the situation was critical.

'The state had received two lakh doses but that was not sufficient even to meet the two days' requirement of the 45+ age group,' said Singh, while reviewing the COVID vaccine situation at a virtual meeting.

Punjab is among the states which has been worst-hit due to the second wave of COVID-19.

The state government is trying to secure supply for 45+ population from the Centre on priority, and also making efforts to strategise Phase III vaccination based on an interim report of an expert group led by Dr Gagandeep Kang, the chief minister said.

The meeting was informed by the officials that an order for procurement of 30 lakh doses of Covishield for the age group of 18-45 years was placed with the Serum Institute of India (SII) on April 26, only to be told that the availability of vaccine will be known in four weeks.

Further, the SII had asked the state government to indicate demand for the next three-four months, with advance payments to be made. They had informed the government that supplies would be delivered in a phased manner, every month, the statement said.

According to the state health department data, of the six worst hit districts, while Mohali, Jalandhar and Ludhiana were doing well in terms of vaccination, Amritsar, Bathinda, Patiala were running short of targets. The chief minister directed these three districts to step up efforts.

There has been a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases in Punjab in the recent weeks.

Punjab had on Thursday reported 138 more deaths, pushing the toll to 8,909, while 6,812 fresh cases took the infection count to 3,64,910 in the state, according to a medical bulletin.

The vaccination drive for all above 18 years of age in Punjab from May 1 may get delayed, state health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu had indicated on Thursday, saying they do not have adequate doses of anti-COVID vaccine.

'We are not getting adequate doses of (COVID-19) vaccine. That is why we are facing problems. We have staff and required infrastructure for vaccination,' he had told the media here.

Punjab had earlier also complained of shortage of vaccine for people above 45-plus age group category and had urged the Centre to give 15 lakh doses a week for the state. PTI SUN VSD CK