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Punjab exploring whether it can tie up directly with COVAX for Covid vaccines

The state government is unaware of whether the facility, providing vaccines to the developing and under-developed member countries and organisations, can provide jabs to individual states also, without the assistance of the Centre.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: May 14, 2021 11:15:38 pm
Punjab exploring whether it can tie up directly with COVAX for Covid vaccinesThe state has ordered 30 lakh Covishield doses so far. The Serum Institute of India has only confirmed 4.29 lakh, of which 1 lakh doses had been received. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

A day after Punjab Cabinet decided to join COVAX to procure covid vaccine at cheaper prices, the government said it was exploring options on how to tie up with the facility.

The Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access, abbreviated as COVAX, is a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines directed by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Senior officials from the Punjab government said that the state could directly source vaccines from COVAX as the Government of India has not approached the global vaccine initiative yet.

The government is unaware of whether the facility, providing vaccines to the developing and under-developed member countries and organisations, can provide jabs to individual states also, without the assistance of the Centre. If the government is able to tie up with COVAX, then it will become the first state in the country to procure vaccines through the global facility.

Since the suggestion to tie up came from Dr Gagandeep Kang, head of Punjab’s Group of Experts on Vaccination, the government has requested her to take up the issue with WHO and GAVI.

“We do not know how a state can partner up with COVAX. We will wait for Dr Kang to give us more clarity as she is a member of these organisations. If it is possible, then we will go ahead,” said an official of the government.

Punjab’s Health Secretary Hussan Lal told The Indian Express that if the state is able to partner with COVAX, then it will help them get the jabs at very cheap prices. “We get Covishield for Rs 315 and Covaxin for Rs 420. If we are able to tie up, then we will get Covishield for Rs 160. This will be really cheap. Also, we can access vaccines from other countries for wider coverage.”

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan told The Indian Express that it was a suggestion at the Thursday Cabinet meeting, which was taken positively, “We are exploring the possibilities for getting vaccine access for our population. It was a good suggestion, which was accepted by the Cabinet. We are exploring all possibilities.”

A state government official said that he did not think that the Centre would have any problem if an individual state approached COVAX directly. “If they can allow other states to float globe tenders, they can always allow a state to tie up with COVAX also,” he believed.

India has so far allowed just three vaccines — Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik — for emergency use in the country.

The state has ordered 30 lakh Covishield doses so far. The Serum Institute of India has only confirmed 4.29 lakh, of which 1 lakh doses had been received.

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