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Punjab battles shortage of Covid drugs: ‘One dealer told me to pay around 1.5 lakh for injections’

Reports of shortage have been received from different parts of the state. WhatsApp groups are flooded with SOS calls from people asking for Itolizumab and Tocilizumab injections that are used to mitigate an immune reaction called ‘cytokine storm’ in Covid patients.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: April 21, 2021 9:36:02 am
Chandigarh faces a shortage of TocilizumabEarlier used for treating rheumatoid arthritis, Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug, is now being used for treating critically ill Covid patients, and is said to reduce Covid deaths. (AP/File)

For last two days, Ramanpreet Singh, a resident of Patiala has been contacting chemists across Punjab to procure Itolizumab and Tocilizumab injections that is used for severely ill Covid patients, for his relative admitted in a hospital.

But he has not been able to get access to the injection.

“I have spoken to distributors in Chandigarh, Patiala, Bathinda, Ludhiana and Amritsar. But nobody could provide me with the injections. My relative, who is admitted to Vardhman Mahavir hospital, is battling Covid and was in need of injections. The doctor attending to her asked me to arrange for the injections as we may need them. I was told by the dealers that I will have to shell out anything between 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh for the injections. I told them I am ready to pay Rs 2 lakh to save a life, precious for me. But I have not got the injection yet,” Ramanpreet told The Indian Express.

He uploaded doctor’s prescription on several WhatsApp groups seeking help from anyone who could make the injection available. “Nothing helped. It is not available,” said Ramanpreet.

He is not alone. Reports of shortage have been received from different parts of the state. The WhatsApp groups are flooded with SOS calls from people asking for these injections that are used to mitigate an immune reaction called ‘cytokine storm’ in Covid patients.

Last week, a Mohali-based journalist had to send SOS calls to Deputy Commissioner Girish Dyalan for the injection. It was after a lot of efforts that the injection was made available.

Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the problem of shortage was severe in private health facilities rather than the government ones. “The shortage is in private facilities. We will get the supplies on April 24. After that we will be comfortable,” he said adding that they will supply the injections to the private hospitals also.

A government functionary said that those who were able to afford the injection were mostly getting treatment in the private hospitals only. That is why the shortage was reported by the private hospitals.

PRESSURE ON OXYGEN SUPPLY

Sidhu said while there was pressure on medical oxygen due to spike in Covid cases, the condition in state was not “as bad” as was in Delhi. Whenever other states report any shortage, Punjab also faces the effect but as of today we are comfortable. “We have our own depots in Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Faridkot. If we face shortage, we will cut supply to the industry. But as the supplier is common, we also may face the shortage. The Chief Minister has already written to the Prime Minister that more oxygen plants should be made functional.

COVID VACCINE SHORTAGE

Owing to shortage of Covid vaccine supply, Punjab had to suspend vaccination camps in the state on Tuesday and suspend vaccination at 20 other centres.

The Health Minister said that Punjab was facing a shortage. Last night, the state had received 2 lakh doses and there were 3 lakh in government’s stock till Tuesday morning. “Our 20 centres were not able to vaccinate the people today. And we suspended all the vaccination camps.”

The minister added that they had asked for 15 lakh doses but the Centre had agreed to promise only three lakhs. “We will get 3 lakh more vaccines tomorrow. We have a target of 3 lakh vaccines everyday. Let us see when we are going to be comfortable.”

State records 4,673 more cases, 61 deaths

Punjab recorded 4,673 new Covid cases and 61 more deaths, as per the state bulletin, Tuesday.

With 61 more deaths Tuesday, the toll in Punjab due to Covid, reached 8,045.

As per the district wise break-up of 61 deaths, seven died in Patiala, six died in Amritsar, five each in SAS Nagar, SBS Nagar and Sangrur, four died in Jalandhar, three each died in Bathinda, Faridkot, Fazilka, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala, two each in Ferozepur and Moga and one each in Barnala, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa and Tarn Taran.

Total infections in the state reached 3,09,316 and total active cases in Punjab are 36,709.

While 48 patients in Punjab are on ‘critical and on ventilator support’, 480 are on oxygen support.

Punjab conducted 48,846 tests within 24 hours and also there were 3,198 recoveries.

Express News Service

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