With a few hours to go for the third phase of COVID-19 vaccination drive for all adults in the country, the Punjab government on Friday deferred the inoculation for this category due to “non-availability” of the vaccine.
Authorities in Union Territory of Chandigarh said they had already started the registrations, but as the vaccines were awaited, they would not be able to start the inoculation for the 18-plus category according to the schedule on May 1.
However, Haryana’s Home and Health Minister Anil Vij told PTI that the vaccination for the 18-45 years category in the state will be started from Saturday.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh deferred Phase III of vaccination, which was slated to begin on May 1, for the 18-45 age group.
Mr Singh made it clear that “due to non-availability of vaccine, Phase III of vaccination for the 18-45 age group cannot be started as scheduled”.
He also said all vaccinations at private health facilities will remain suspended from Saturday.
The Chief Minister said as the balance of unutilised vaccines had to be returned to the Government of India by all private health facilities by Friday evening, these facilities would have no vaccines to administer from Friday for 45+ population, while they could not vaccinate 18-45 age group as they had no supplies for the same.
According to an official statement, Mr Singh said his government was pursuing the matter of vaccine shortage with the Centre, as the situation was critical.
“The state had received two lakh doses but that was not sufficient even to meet the two days’ requirement of the 45+ age group,” said Mr Singh, while reviewing the COVID vaccine situation at a virtual meeting.
Punjab is among the states which has been worst-hit due to the second wave of COVID-19.
Union Territory Chandigarh’s Home-cum-Health Secretary Arun Gupta when asked about the vaccination for 18-45 category rolling out in Chandigarh from May 1, said, “We have not received the vaccines, so without the vaccines we cannot start it”.
“We have started the registration, but the slots will be allotted only after we receive the vaccines,” Mr Gupta told PTI.
He said they are awaiting confirmation about the delivery of one lakh vaccines from the Serum Institute of India (SII).
However, Haryana Minister Anil Vij said, “We have got the message from the SII and more vaccines are reaching us. The rollout for the 18-45 year category will start tomorrow as scheduled”.
Mr Vij further said Haryana has sought 40 lakh doses from the SII and 26 lakh from Bharat Biotech, the manufacturer of Covaxin.
“We will get these in phases,” he said.
Like Punjab, both Haryana and Chandigarh, the common capital of the two states, has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Amarinder Singh said the Punjab government is trying to secure supply for 45+ population from the Centre on priority, and also making efforts to strategise Phase III vaccination based on an interim report of an expert group led by Dr Gagandeep Kang.
The meeting was informed by the officials that an order for procurement of 30 lakh doses of Covishield for the age group of 18-45 years was placed with the SII on April 26, only to be told that the availability of vaccine will be known in four weeks.
Further, the SII had asked the Punjab government to indicate demand for the next three-four months, with advance payments to be made. They had informed the government that supplies would be delivered in a phased manner, every month, the statement said.
According to the state health department data, of the six worst hit districts, while Mohali, Jalandhar and Ludhiana were doing well in terms of vaccination, Amritsar, Bathinda, Patiala were running short of targets. The chief minister directed these three districts to step up efforts.
There has been a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases in Punjab in the recent weeks.
Punjab had on Thursday reported 138 more deaths, pushing the count to 8,909, while 6,812 fresh cases took the infection count to 3,64,910 in the state, according to a medical bulletin.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)