Punjab joined the rest of the country in the historic roll-out of the Covid vaccine on Saturday morning, with five Health Care Workers (HCWs) getting the jab in the presence of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, who virtually kicked off the process to inoculate 1.74 lakh HCWs in the first phase.
Dr. Sandeep Singh, Dr. Charan Kamal, Dr. Dimple Dhaliwal Srivastva, Computer Operator Asha Yadav and Class IV employee Surjit Singh were administered the first dose of Covishield Vaccine in the presence of the Chief Minister at Civil Hospital Phase-6. Captain Amarinder Singh also gifted saplings to these five healthcare workers, posted at Civil Hospital, Mohali, as a token of appreciation.
Interacting with media persons, the Chief Minister said it was his desire to get vaccinated first but in accordance with the directives of the Government of India only HCWs could be covered in the first phase. “I would definitely get myself vaccinated in the next phase,” revealed Captain Amarinder Singh.
He said that the vaccine would be administered to the HCWs first, followed by the army and police personnel, in line with the guidelines of the Government of India. He disclosed that he had written to the Prime Minister for permission for free distribution amongst the people belonging to the lower income Groups.
In response to a query on vaccine safety, the Chief Minister said the vaccine would not have been approved unless the scientists were sure of its safety. He noted that Covid vaccines around the world had been taken by many eminent personalities, including Queen Elizabeth of UK who is 93 and her husband who is 99, without any side effects.
Earlier, in his address at the Kisan Vikas Chamber, the Chief Minister said that he was delighted to announce the state-wide launch of the Covid vaccine, while appealing to the people to continue to wear masks and observe all social distancing and other safety norms. Noting that all the restrictions imposed during lockdown, curfew and thereafter had been aimed at delaying the peak of the pandemic so that the vaccine could be available, the Chief Minister thanked the people for their patience and cooperation during this difficult phase.
Hoping that the vaccination would pave the way for the complete eradication of the Covid pandemic from Punjab and the rest of India, the Chief Minister said it was undoubtedly a memorable day when the long awaited vaccine had arrived after getting all the mandatory approvals from health experts in the Government of India. He prayed to the Waheguru for the success of the vaccination drive to ensure the safety and protection of every citizen.
The Chief Minister lauded the healthcare workers and others responsible for keeping the spread of the pandemic in check in the state, where the number of daily cases had come down from the peak of 3700 to 242. The target was to bring them down to zero, he said, asserting that his government would continue its endeavour to safeguard the interests of all Punjabis.
Recalling India’s nearly year-long ordeal, Captain Amarinder Singh said that the first Covid case in the country was reported from Kerala on 30th January, 2020, while the first instance of COVID-19 came to notice in Punjab on 5th March, 2020 with a travel history of Italy. Since then, since then in Punjab about 1.2 crore persons have been screened for symptoms and over 41 lakh persons have been tested so far, he said, adding that nearly, 1.7 lakh persons have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Chief Minister pointed out that Punjab was the first State to impose lockdown and curfew, besides ensuring home delivery of food items and medicines during curfew. He cited the various measures undertaken as part of the state’s ‘Mission Fateh’ to combat the pandemic.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu thanked the Chief Minister for vigorously pursuing with the Centre for procurement of the Vaccine. He said that all arrangements had been put in place for smooth vaccination, including online portal for registration, operationalisation of 366 sites for administering the dose etc in the state. In the initial stage, as many as 408 vaccination teams had been constituted and 59 teams were working to inoculate the HCWs, he added. Apart from these, Sidhu said that 729 Cold Chain points had been established in the State for adequate storage of vials at the desired temperature.
Principal Secretary Health and Family Welfare Hussan Lal said the vaccines had been authorized for restricted emergency use in the country. 3000 Central Health Care Workers, 9000 for Defence Health Care Workers and 1.93 lakh for State Health Care Workers, both in Government and Private Health Care Facilities, would be inoculated in the first phase, he added.
In his address, PPCC President Sunil Jakhar said that no state or Central government could afford privatisation in the core sectors of defence, food and health. The private sector could compliment services in these sectors to some extent but could not be solely relied upon them, he said. He emphasised the need to press in mobile health service in the rural areas to create basic awareness amongst women about their health, hygiene and wellness adding he said these mobile vans should fully equipped with doctors and paramedics with facility of tests for proper diagnosis and treatment.
President Punjab Youth Congress Barinder Singh Dhillon lauded the visionary leadership of Captain Amarinder Singh in aptly handling the situation emerging out of Covid.