CHANDIGARH: The Punjab government on Thursday decided to join the COVAX facility alliance for global sourcing and procurement of Covid-19 vaccines at the best price, becoming the first state in the country to take such a strategic initiative for addressing the problem of vaccine shortage amid the deadly second wave of the pandemic.
The decision was taken during a cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, which also approved the purchase of Covaxin for industrial workers for whose vaccination the industry has expressed willingness to pay.
The state has so far ordered only Covishield vaccine for the 18-44 age group, but with this decision the decks have been cleared to place orders for Covaxin too.
Reviewing the vaccination status and availability in the state, the cabinet said it was necessary to source vaccines globally. Since the COVAX facility offers the best prices, the state should make an attempt to join it for procuring vaccines from the international markets, it decided.
The suggestion for joining the COVAX was given to the cabinet by Gagandeep Kang, who heads the state expert group on vaccination.
COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.
In a brief presentation, Health Secretary Hussan Lal informed the cabinet that of the 30 lakh Covishield doses ordered by the state, the Serum Institute of India had so far confirmed 4.29 lakh, of which 100,000 doses had been received.
He said some Central government institutions and industrial establishments were requesting for early vaccination of their work force. Given the shortage of vaccines, he pointed out that certain states were floating global tenders to import the vaccine.
He apprised the cabinet that for the 45 plus age group, the last tranche of Covishield vaccine (163,710 doses) was received on May 9, taking the total to 42,48,560. As many as 345,000 doses were given to the armed forces, while the total vaccination utilization stood at 39,03,560.
For Covaxin in the 45 plus category, the last tranche of vaccine received was of 75,000 doses (May 6), taking the total received to 409,080, of which utilization till date was 352,080, leaving availability of only 57,000 now.
Amid the escalating Covid-19 crisis, the cabinet also gave post-facto approval for the procurement of hospital material and consumables costing Rs 152.56 crore for effective management of the pandemic.
It approved recruitment of 250 doctors in the Health Department, against existing vacant regular posts through the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences in Faridkot, after taking the recruitment process out of the purview of the Punjab Public Service Commission.