Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking priority allocation of Covid-19 vaccine to the state, on account of its higher mortality rate resulting from the population age profile and high levels of co-morbidities.
In his letter, the Chief Minister said despite its relatively low case load, the higher fatality rate due to Covid in Punjab, which thus needs special dispensation in the allocation of the vaccine. Pointing out that the vaccines currently under consideration would not perhaps reduce transmission so much as prevent serious disease, Captain Amarinder said that the best use of these vaccines would therefore be in preventing serious illness in the most susceptible groups, including elderly and persons with high morbidity.
Captain Amarinder Singh also sought clarity as to whether the Covid-19 vaccination would be entirely funded by the Government of India, including the cost of vaccines and vaccination supplies. He further asked for clarity on the principles based on which the prioritized groups are to be identified for sequential immunization phases, and leave the preparation of the list of prioritized groups to the state.
The Chief Minister also sought expansion of the definition of frontline workers for the purpose of immunization to include administrative officials and others responsible for essential functions. While the definition of healthcare worker was relatively precise and Punjab had compiled data based on it, but the definition of frontline workers lack clarity, he noted, adding that as of now it seemed to include only security forces (Police, Armed Forces) and Municipal Workers, with some mention of primary school teachers.
Noting that beyond individuals defined by occupation and role, it may be important for epidemiological purposes to immunize defined areas, such as densely populated urban areas known to be hot spots or potential hot-spots, the Chief Minister said the state will be better positioned if there is flexibility in implementation of immunization. This is particularly important in providing the state with vaccines as a tool to suppress emerging outbreaks, as has been done for several outbreaks, including influenza and Ebola, he added.
Referring to certain issues with regard to Covid-19 control and vaccination especially its procurement, supply and storage, the Chief Minister pointed out that the total requirement of cold chain capacity at different temperatures cannot be clearly defined until the vaccine product is identified and the dosage availability intimated through central procurement as advised. He further said that real time record of what capacity is available in medical and agricultural sectors would be maintained by his government, which would be only possible if the state had potential excess capacity.
The Chief Minister, in his letter, also highlighted the need for clarity on using testing for informed action for vaccines by strategically changing the current approach to testing for both, the virus and the antibodies. This is significant to understand where vaccines are needed most, as well as the potential impact of vaccines, specially to inform future vaccination approaches, he said, adding that it would be helpful to have national and state-specific approaches to the strategy for testing, which could be based on the advice of infectious disease experts and epidemiologists, added Captain Amarinder Singh.