Chandigarh, April 23 : Terming the new vaccination policy for the 18-plus age group as unfair to the states, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday sought Centre-state parity in vaccination for that age group from May 1, while calling for urgent steps to ensure adequate oxygen supply.
While the Punjab government has adopted all measures to minimise demand for oxygen, given its criticality as the most essential drug for the treatment of serious Covid-19 patients, the govrnment of India must ensure that all commitments with regard to its allocation are complied with by the liquid oxygen manufacturers in the other states, the Chief Minister demanded.
Punjab's supplies come from Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and there are reports of supplies being 'hijacked', Amarinder Singh said at the virtual conference held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday to discuss the Covid situation with the CMs of the worst hit states.
On the vaccination front, the Chief Minister said that the new rates announced by one of the manufacturers will cost the Punjab government over Rs 1,000 crore.
He sought Central government funding for vaccination, with permission to make the cost a fit charge on the SDRF funds in the interim.
Regular vaccine supply must be ensured to maintain the supply chain to the last vaccination booth, he said, adding that due to supply shortage, vaccinations in the last one week have been slightly low, i.e., around 75,000-80,000 a day.
While Punjab received fresh supplies on Thursday, the current stocks can last only three days as 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 experts' group under virologist Gagandeep Kang to advise on the vaccination strategy for those in the age group of 18-45 years, whom the states have been allowed to vaccinate at their cost, he said.
The Chief Minister also pointed to the shortage and blackmarketing of medicines like Remdesivir, which he said is creating great panic among the general public.
Though the Central government is making efforts to increase its supply, a clearer message is required to inform the public that it is not a magic wand, and also about the available substitutes, he stressed.
Pointing to the shortage of Remdesivir injections and zero availability of Tocilizumab injections in the state, he said that the hospitals are following the treatment protocols for the critical patients and using alternate medicines.
Citing the increase in the number of cases to around 5,000 per day, with 10 per cent test positivity rate in the last one week, from around 3,000 per day with eight per cent positivity during the last meeting on April 8, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to direct the central institutions like AIIMS Bathinda, PGI Satellite Centres and Military Hospitals in Punjab to provide additional Covid beds.
Pre-fab structures on offer by the CSIR could be used for this purpose, he said, pointing to the grave situation in the state which has a case fatality rate of 1.4 per cent.
Expressing concern over the fact that Punjab did not receive any fresh results on viral genome sequencing in the last almost a month, when the last results showed over 85 per cent UK strain, Amarinder Singh urged the Prime Minister to order escalation of efforts to understand the mutations and their implications for proper policy response.
He also urged the government of India to build a consensus on Covid appropriate behaviour to check the spread of the virus.
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