Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday said he would get himself vaccinated for COVID-19 vaccine in the next phase as he rolled out the inoculation drive here. Four healthcare workers, including three doctors, were administered the first dose of Covishield vaccine in the presence of the chief minister at civil hospital here.
Amarinder Singh also gifted saplings to these five healthcare workers as a token of appreciation. The chief minister said it was his desire to get vaccinated first but in accordance with the directives of the Government of India only healthcare workers could be covered in the first phase.
"I would definitely get myself vaccinated in the next phase," he said. Singh said the vaccine would be administered to the health workers first, followed by the Army and police personnel, in line with the guidelines of the Government of India.
In the first phase, 1.74 lakh health workers would be inoculated. He disclosed that he had written to the prime minister for permission for free distribution among 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 the UK who is 93 and her husband who is 99, without any side effects.
Earlier, in his address, the chief minister said 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. He noted 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 CM 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 almighty 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 3,700 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. Amarinder Singh said the first COVID case in the country was reported from Kerala on January 20, 2020, while the first instance of COVID-19 came to notice in Punjab on March 5, 2020 with a travel history of Italy. Since then, in Punjab about 1.20 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 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The CM pointed out that Punjab was the first state to impose lockdown and curfew, besides ensuring home delivery of food items and medicines during curfew. Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said all arrangements had been put in place for smooth vaccination, including online portal for registration, operationalisation of 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 healthcare workers, he added. Sidhu said 729 cold chain points had been established in the state for adequate storage of vials at the desired temperature.