Chandigarh, January 15:
Even as he prepared to kickstart the process of vaccination of 1.74 lakh health workers, with 40,000 to be covered every day over the next five days in the first phase, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking free vaccine delivery to the poor population of the state.
The Chief Minister, while acknowledging the receipt of 2,04,500 doses of Covishield vaccine, thanked the Prime Minister for making this vaccine available on priority to the Health Care Workers (HCWs) of the State and Central Government in Punjab. At the same time, he earnestly requested the Prime Minister “to consider providing free vaccine to the poor population with a view to lessen the disease burden and also ensuring a check on the further spread of transmission thereby allowing more economic activity.”
Referring to reports citing some central government sources that apart from the HCWs and Front Line Workers (FLWs), the remaining population may not be provided free vaccine, Captain Amarinder pointed out in his letter that “the people of the State have gone through a very difficult time due to COVID wherein economic activities have nosedived and the economy has still not recovered from this shock.” “It would be difficult for the poorer sections of society to pay for the vaccination,” he said.
The Chief Minister said in his letter that all steps are in place to ensure vaccination of HCWs on priority, with Front Line Workers (FLWs) to follow in the next phase. The State has adequate capacity for storing as well as transportation of the vaccine, he wrote, adding that sufficient number of vaccination sites have been identified and all logistics tied up. Adequate number of vaccinators have been identified, and trained and sufficient number of teams have been mobilized and trained to manage the vaccination sessions.
Pointing out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unparalleled disaster in living memory, and heavy expenditure had to be incurred in our Covid response,” the Chief Minister further wrote that his government had already requested the Centre that the accumulated balances with the state in the State Disaster Relief Fund may be permitted to be used as necessary for COVID response. “The MHA may kindly approve this to allow pending payments to be cleared,” he urged the Prime Minister.
An official spokesperson meanwhile said that Captain Amarinder will go live on Saturday morning to initiate the process of vaccinating the health workers in the state as part of the nationwide launch of the vaccination programme, shortly after the Prime Minister launches it for the country.
The Chief Minister will kickstart Punjab’s vaccination drive from Mohali at 11.30 a.m., with a total of 59 vaccination sites to be functional in the first phase. Since a specific number of vaccination doses have been received so far for the health care workers whose details were shared by the state government with the Centre, he himself will now take the vaccine in the next phase, said the spokesperson.