The Punjab Government is all set to administer COVID-19 jab to all construction workers of age group between 18 to 44 years from tomorrow across the State.
Giving details, the Health Minister Mr. Balbir Singh said that the health department has received the only 1 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the 18 to 44 age group of populations thereby it has been decided to cover the construction workers in first phase. He said that the Government of Punjab has placed an immediate order of 30 lakh doses with Serum Institute of India Ltd., and has been informed that the allocation will be 4.29 lac doses for the 18–44-year age group for the month of May 2021 from which government received only 1 lakh doses, so far.
Mr. Sidhu said that while the Vaccine Expert Committee recommends that increased doses be sought in partnership with private sector and other sources, for allocation of available doses in May. Individuals with co-morbidities are at highest risk of severe disease and hence 70 percent of doses are allocated to this group in next phase.
The Health Minister informed that the list of co-morbidities is as specified previously by the Government of India, but should be extended to include obesity (BMI>30), disabilities (e.g. spinal cord injury) and multiple co-morbidities determined to increase risk by a treating physician.
Pointing out the high risk groups in certain populations, he said that certain professions have greater interactions with other individuals and are at highest risk of infection and transmission, and hence 30 percent of doses are allocated to this group. A list of professions at risk has already been presented in the strategy, but for May 2021, only the top three categories are to be included, viz., i) government employees, ii) construction workers, iii) teachers and other staff at government and private educational establishments.
Highlighting the strategy used for allocating the vaccines in districts, he said that districts have been ranked based on population based incidence, mortality and density into 3 zones, A, B and C, in order of priority, which are allocated 50 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent of doses. Within these zones, the Expert Committee recommends that vaccination be limited to major urban centres while vaccine supplies are severely constrained and allocation has been made proportionate to the population of major urban areas of Zones A and B. For Zone C, they recommend an equal distribution of doses across each district. When further doses are available or as the epidemiologic situation changes, the prioritization framework may be modified.
Referring the recommendations of expert committee, he divulged that a consultation to be made with national and international vaccine experts to recommend the dosing strategy for Covishield and possibly other vaccines, given international experience with expanding population coverage and its impact.
He said that the State Government is already developing 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.