Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking free COVID-19 vaccination for the poor in the state. The chief minister acknowledged the receipt of 2,04,500 doses of Covishield vaccine and also thanked the prime minister for making this vaccine available on priority to healthcare workers (HCWs).
In a statement here, Singh requested Modi to consider providing free vaccine to the poor 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 some reports that apart from HCWs and frontline workers (FLWs), the remaining population may not be provided free vaccine, he pointed out in his letter, "the people of the state have gone through a very difficult times due to COVID-19 wherein economic activities have nosedived and the economy has still not recovered from this shock".
"It would be difficult for the poorer sections of the society to pay for the vaccination," he said. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has been an unparalleled disaster and heavy expenditure had to be incurred in the state's COVID-19 response.
His government had already requested the Centre that the accumulated balances with the state in the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) may be permitted to be used as necessary for COVID response, Singh wrote. "The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) may kindly approve this to allow pending payments to be cleared," he urged the prime minister. The chief minister said in his letter that all steps are in place to ensure vaccination of healthcare workers on priority, with frontline workers 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 had been identified and all logistics tied up. Adequate number of vaccinators had been identified, and trained and sufficient number of teams have been mobilised and trained to manage the vaccination sessions.
The chief minister will kickstart Punjab's vaccination drive from Mohali 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 healthcare workers whose details were shared by the state government with the Centre, he himself will now take the vaccine in the next phase, the statement said.