Punjab govt lacks intention to procure Covid vaccines: Badal

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Chandigarh, May 25 (PTI) SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday said speedy vaccination is needed to win the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and alleged that the Congress-led Punjab government lacks the intention to procure vaccines.

Claiming that the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has been able to procure Covaxin doses within a week of placing the order, Badal asked why the state government can't do the same.

States across the country have reported a shortage of Covid vaccine doses and some have been forced to halt the vaccination of certain age groups. Many states have also issued global tenders to procure vaccines.

Punjab's nodal officer for vaccination Vikas Garg had said on Sunday that the state has approached all vaccine manufacturers for direct purchase of Covid jabs including Sputnik V, Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.

While Moderna and Pfizer have refused to supply vaccines directly to the Punjab government, saying they deal only with the Centre, other firms haven't yet responded, according to Garg.

Badal said Punjab needs speedy vaccination to win the fight against COVID-19 and requested Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to make a special allocation of Rs 1,000 crore to purchase vaccines to inoculate people of the state in the next six months.

'For a vaccination drive, there is a need to buy vaccine doses. Vaccines are available, we have Sputnik V and Covaxin. But there is a lack of intention on the part of the state government,' the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) said while addressing the media here.

Badal claimed the SGPC has procured vaccine doses and will start its vaccine drive next week.

'If the SGPC can buy it (vaccines), then why can't the Punjab government (do it)?' he asked.

'Vaccinating people should be the top priority of the CM at this moment,' Badal said.

'If need be, the chief minister should call an emergency meeting of the state cabinet to clear the proposal for the speedy procurement of vaccine doses,' he said.

Badal said Punjab can effectively fight COVID-19 if the chief minister and all state ministers lead from the front.

'Sadly, this has not been seen so far and that is why Punjab has witnessed 4,000 deaths in the last three months alone,' he alleged.

As of Monday, Punjab's COVID-19 caseload stood at 5,43,475 and the death toll at 13,468, according to official data.

Badal also sought a monthly pension of Rs 6,000 for all families who have lost their breadwinners to Covid, besides free education for children orphaned by the viral disease.

Simultaneously, the government should make necessary preparations to cope with a potential third wave of the pandemic, he said.

'The state needs to order at least 2,000 ventilators and install them within three months along with hiring the necessary staff to man them,' Badal said.

This is of utmost importance as 17 out of 22 districts do not have ventilator facilities, he claimed.

The SAD chief also urged the Centre not to levy Goods and Services Tax (GST) on vaccines, saying it should not try to earn money from the sale of vaccines.

He also called for waiving GST on ventilators and life-saving drugs needed for Covid treatment. PTI CHS VSD DIV DIV

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