Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday announced that vaccination in age group of 18-45 years across the State would start from May 1, and it would be ensured that every needy person receives the vaccine free of cost.

In view of the limited supplies of the vaccine expected initially, the Chief Minister constituted an Expert group , comprising eminent virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, Dr Jacob John Professor of Community Health at CMC in Vellore and Dr Rajesh Kumar former Head School of Public Health PGIMER in Chandigarh to suggest prioritisation in the 18-45 age group.

Chairing a high level meeting to review the prevailing Covid-19 situation in the state, the Chief Minister tasked the expert group to chalk out a vaccination strategy and submit a detailed plan to the state government within a week to meet the challenge in the midst of the unprecedented Covid pandemic in the state.

Eminent virologist Dr Gagandeep Kang, who attended the meeting as a special invitee, emphasised the need to have a proper strategy to combat the current second wave of Covid, with geographical saturation in high case load cities such as Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Mohali, and Patiala besides prioritisation on the basis of medical need (serious comorbidity) and on the basis of professional groups such as teachers.

The Chief Minister was informed that the state has received 4 lakh more doses of Covishield vaccine from the Centre today. As these were likely to last the state for only 3 or 4 more days as per the pace of the ongoing vaccination drive, he asked the Health department to vigorously pursue with the Union Government for ensuring requisite supply of more Covishield vaccine besides getting requisite stock of Covaxin doses as well.

Referring to the reports of black marketing of anti-viral drugs like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab in the country, the Chief Minister said the experts have given clear protocols on the use of such medicines, which must be duly publicised and followed in right earnest.  Health Adviser Dr KK Talwar, referred to the World Health Organisation (WHO) studies have shown that Remdesivir may not have any impact on the mortality due to Covid. Further, there were alternatives for Tocilizumab and such information is being regularly shared in the expert group of doctors.

Captain Amarinder directed that the state should, however, continue to procure such drugs for patients who may benefit from their use, and provide the same to the government hospitals and also support the private hospitals, as was already being done.

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