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Monday, April 12, 2021

Captain gets first vaccine jab, hits out at BJP for accusing Punjab of rejecting Covaxin

People hesitant to sign Covaxin consent forms, still 2,700 doses administered, says Punjab health secretary.

By: Express News Service | Ludhiana |
Updated: March 6, 2021 9:06:12 am
Captain Amarinder Singh. (File)

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday took his first dose of an anti-Covid vaccine at the Mohali Civil Hospital. While urging everyone eligible to get inoculated, the CM also hit out at the BJP for alleging that non-BJP ruled states were rejecting Covaxin. Amarinder dismissed BJP’s claim as “a complete lie and part of the ruling party’s false and politically motivated propaganda”.

Punjab health officials, however, spoke of hesitancy to sign consent forms among the beneficiaries in getting Covaxin jab, but added that even then the state has already administered at least 2,780 doses of the indigenously developed vaccine against Covid-19 by Bharat Biotech.

On Thursday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had said that “opposition ruled states such as Punjab, Kerala, Jharkhand, West Bengal have questioned the efficacy of indigenously developed Covaxin” and have “refused”.

Categorically denying the charge, Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh said, “It is not at all true.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, Husan Lal, Principal Secretary, Health, Punjab, said that the state has received a total of 13 lakh vaccines till now, of which 12 lakh were Covishield and 1.34 lakh were Covaxin.

“Initially, we had received 4 lakh doses of Covishield only and Covaxin came in much later. Of the 2.48 lakh doses administered to beneficiaries till Friday, we have already given 2,780 doses of Covaxin and the rest Covishield. This even as people have been hesitant to sign consent forms which is mandatory in case of Covaxin,” said Lal.

Explaining the procedure, Lal said, “There was so much of vaccine hesitancy that people including healthcare and frontline workers were not even ready to take Covishield even as they don’t have to sign any consent form for it. Since Covaxin has been cleared for clinical trials only, we have to get consent from beneficiaries which they refuse to in many cases. For each person vaccinated with Covaxin, their data has to be shared with Bharat Biotech and they will monitor their health for three months. Seeing the doubts and apprehensions related to Covid vaccine since the drive started in January, it was not easy to convince anyone to get Covaxin shot. Still people have come forward and have taken Covaxin shot too.”

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With phase two of the vaccination drive started for 60+ and 45-59 years with comorbidities who can pre-register on Co-WIN portal or walk-in at designated hospitals to get the vaccine, they are not given a choice at the time of online registration to opt between Covaxin or Covishield, said Lal.

“When a person registers on the portal, he/she is not given a choice to choose between Covishield or Covaxin. Each hospital creates one session for one particular vaccine and it is only after reaching the site that the beneficiary gets to know which vaccine he/she will be administered. However, if he/she is hesitant to sign a consent form for Covaxin, they can refuse to get vaccinated on the spot. We cannot force them to get Covaxin shot. However, it is the will of the hospitals if they want to increase sessions and offer both vaccines. Then they can take required supplies from us. So while some hospitals are offering one of the two, some are offering both. And if a beneficiary feels that he/she wants to take Covishield and not Covaxin, he/she can register again after getting details of that particular session from the hospital,” said Lal.

“But there is no pick and choose in this procedure from our side. Major supply has been of Covishield and so naturally most beneficiaries vaccinated in Punjab have got that only,” he added.

While Covaxin is India’s indigenously developed vaccine by Bharat Biotech, ‘Covishield’ which is being mass produced by Pune’s Serum Institute of India (SII), has been developed by the Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

On the slow pace of vaccination in the state, CM urged the media to spread awareness about the importance and efficacy of vaccines.

Admitting that cases of Covid in Punjab were on the rise, Amarinder said it was a matter of concern. His government was keeping a close watch on the situation, he said, while blaming the casual attitude of Punjabis for the resurgence in cases. He appealed to the people to strictly adhere to all Covid safety norms, including wearing masks and following social distancing.

The CM, meanwhile, was administered the vaccine by auxiliary nurse and midwife Manpreet.

“I got my first shot of Covid-19 vaccine today. I urge all above 60 years of age or above 45 years with comorbidities to get the vaccination dose as soon as possible. We all need to come together to defeat Covid-19 and I’m sure we will,” the CM tweeted with hashtag ‘Mission Fateh’.

Singh’s media advisor Raveen Thukral later said that the CM, after being vaccinated, said it was painless and that he was feeling fine. He also posted a short video in which Manpreet is seen administering the vaccine to the CM.

Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi also got the first dose of the vaccine Friday at Phase-6 Civil Hospital, Mohali.

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