Amid an acute shortage of anti-coronavirus vaccine, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday directed the health department to explore possibilities of floating a global tender for the procurement of immunisation shots from all possible sources, an official statement said. The state government will reach out directly to all vaccine manufacturers for direct purchase of various Covid vaccines, including Sputnik V, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, Singh said in the statement. Punjab can store 35 lakh Sputnik V vaccines, which require a storage temperature of minus 18 degrees Celsius, he added. The chief minister said all efforts would be made for procurement of vaccines to meet the acute shortage in the state which has received fewer than 44 lakh vaccine doses so far from the Union government, of which only one lakh is currently available for use and which will be exhausted within a day. The state government was forced to stop the vaccination drive for phase I and phase 2 categories in the last three days because of non-availability of doses, the chief minister said as he directed all concerned departments to continue pursuing the matter of supply aggressively with the Centre.
According to the central government's vaccine allocation for phase III (18-44 age group), the state government has been able to buy only 3.6 lakh doses, including 63,000 received on Wednesday. A total of 2.3 lakh doses have been used, leaving only 1.3 lakh, Singh said. Pointing out that almost one lakh unregistered construction workers and their family members had so far come forward for getting vaccinated in line with the state government's prioritisation of vaccination for 18-44 category, Singh asked the labour department to ensure the registration of these workers on priority.
During the coronavirus review meeting, Covid expert group head Dr K K Talwar noted that the existing vaccines had been found to be effective against the new variants/mutants so far. DGP Dinkar Gupta said the Punjab Police had lost 21 personnel to the virus in the last five months, and of these, 50 per cent were not fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the chief minister launched a WhatsApp chatbot for self-care during home isolation, information on bed availability and vaccine centres etc. Patients in home isolation can enter their vitals in the app and these will be monitored by experts who will advise them on the course of treatment. The app is available in three languages English, Punjabi and Hindi, the statement said.