The Captain Amarinder Singh led Punjab government on Thursday decided to join the COVAX facility alliance for global sourcing and procurement of Covid vaccines at the best price, becoming the first state in the country to take such a well thought out strategic initiative towards addressing the problem of vaccine shortage amid the deadly second wave of the pandemic.
The decision was taken during the cabinet meeting, which also approved the purchase of Covaxin for industrial workers, for whose vaccination the industry has expressed willingness to pay. The state government has so far ordered only Covishield vaccine for the 18-44 age group, but with this decision, decks have been cleared to place orders for Covaxin too. Reviewing the vaccination status and availability in the state, the cabinet said it was necessary to source vaccine globally.
Since the COVAX facility offers the best prices, the state should make an attempt to join the same for procuring vaccines from the international markets, it decided. The suggestion for joining the COVAX was given to the cabinet by Dr Gagandeep Kang, who heads the Punjab Expert Group on Vaccination. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.
In a brief presentation, Health Secretary Hussan Lal informed the cabinet that of the 30 lakh Covishield doses ordered by the state government, the Serum Institute of India had so far confirmed 4.29 lakh, of which 1 lakh doses had been received. He further disclosed that some central government institutions and industrial establishments were requesting for early vaccination of their work force. Given the shortage of vaccines, he pointed out that certain states were floating global tenders to import the same.
The Health Secretary further apprised the cabinet that for the 45+ age group, the last tranche of Covishield vaccine (1,63,710 doses) was received on May 9, taking the total to 42,48, 560. As many as 3,45,000 doses were given to the armed forces, while the total vaccination utilization stood at 39,03,560. For Covaxin in the 45+ category, the last tranche of vaccine received was of 75,000 doses (6 May 2021), taking the total received to 4,09,080, of which utilization till date was 3,52,080, leaving availability of only 57,000 now.