Chandigarh, (Raftaar News Bureau):
With the state getting an allocation of only 3.30 lakh vaccines for the 18+ category from the Serum Institute of India for the month of May, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered 70% of the doses to be reserved for individuals with co-morbidities, and the remaining 30% to high-risk category of employees and workers in this age group.
Chairing a high-level virtual review meeting, the Chief Minister announced that within these groups, district-wise allocation has also been prioritised based on population index, mortality and density. Given the severe supply constraints, it has been decided to limit the vaccination for 18-44 age group in this phase to major urban centres, he said, expressing concern over the fact that even for the 45+ age group, the state was in short supply, as a result of which only a few vaccine centres were currently functioning.
The state expects 2 lakh doses to arrive tomorrow for vaccination of 45+ category. Of the 3346500 Covishield doses received so far, a total of 32910450 has already been utilised.
In the 18-44 age group, for the month of May, the maximum allocation of 50% has been prioritised for Group A of the most affected districts of SAS Nagar, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Bathinda and Patiala. Another 30% has been reserved for the Group B districts of Hoshiarpur, Pathankot, SBS Nagar, Faridkot, Kapurthala and Gurdaspur, while 20% will be utilised in the other districts that have the least cases at present. , Allocation has been made proportionate to the population of major urban areas of Zones A and B, while for Zone C, an equal distribution of doses across has been allocated for each district.
These decisions have been taken in accordance with the vaccine strategy recommended by the state’s Vaccine Expert Committee for May, an official spokesperson said after the meeting. The committee recommended that when further doses are available or as the epidemiologic situation changes, the prioritisation framework may be modified. The committee comprises Dr Gagandeep Kang, Dr Jacob John and Dr Rajesh Kumar.
Accepting the recommendations of the committee, the Chief Minister approved expansion of the list of comorbidities to include obesity (BMI>30), disabilities (e.g. spinal cord injury) and multiple co-morbidities determined to increase risk by a treating physician, in addition to those specified by the central government. He pointed out that since individuals with co-morbidities are at highest risk of severe disease and deaths, it was imperative to vaccinate them on priority.
For the remaining 30%, the Chief Minister said that while the strategic roadmap contains a list of professions at risk, given the limitation of vaccine availability, for the month of May, the top three categories have been chosen. These are: i) government employees, ii) construction workers, iii) teachers and other staff at government and private educational establishments, all of whom have a greater interactions with other individuals and are highest risk of infection and transmission.
It may be noted that the Government of Punjab has placed an immediate order of 30 lakh doses with Serum Institute of India Ltd. for 18-44 category, but has been informed that the allocation will be 3.30 lakh doses only for the 18–44-year age group for the month of May 2021.
To boost supplies, the Vaccine Expert Committee has recommended that increased doses be sought in partnership with private sector and other sources, for allocation of available doses in May. It has also suggested that the state government initiate a consultation with national and international vaccine experts to recommend the dosing strategy for Covishield and possibly other vaccines, given the international experience with expanding population coverage and its impact.
Further, the Committee has recommended development of a plan for evaluation of vaccine effectiveness for prioritized groups, those with co-morbidities, and the general populations. This will be valuable in designing further control efforts and may be done in conjunction with infectious disease modelling for the state, the Committee stressed.