Vaccination for 18-44 age group may not start on May 1

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People gather outside the urban health centre in Panaji on Tuesday to get themselves tested for COVID-19. The number of positive cases is on the rise in the state.

Panaji: There is no certainty as to when the citizens of Goa in the age group of 18 to 44 years will start getting a coronavirus vaccine shot, as there is no commitment from the vaccine manufacturer for the timely supply of the vaccine to the state government.

Director of health services Dr Jose De Sa on Tuesday informed that the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), which manufactures ‘Covishield’ vaccine, has not confirmed if they can supply the required vaccine doses to Goa before May 1.

“The state has already placed an order for 5 lakh doses of Covishield to cover up beneficiaries in the age group 18-45, but as per the information that we got from SII, they are not in a position to supply at present because they have a commitment towards the government of India. So they will first fulfil the commitment made to the Centre and then supply to us. And that will take some time,” Dr De Sa said addressing a press conference along with Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, dean of Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC) Dr S M Bandekar and others.

He, however, said vaccination for citizens aged 45 and above will continue in the state by using the vaccine doses from the central government quota, which has already been supplied to Goa.

It is pertinent to note that in the wake of the rising COVID-19 cases, the central government has announced that vaccination for everyone above 18 years of age will start from May 1.

Dr De Sa informed that the Goa government has also reached out to Bharat Biotech, which is manufacturing the indigenous vaccine ‘COVAXIN’. However, they have also not responded yet to the official communiqué of the government. He further said the directions and guidelines for registration of beneficiaries in the age group of 18-44 have not yet been received from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Dr Bandekar informed that from Wednesday onwards, the government will provide medicines, which will work as prophylaxis, to every person who opts for COVID-19 testing.

“Paracetamol, Ivermectin and Doxycycline will be given to people turning up for testing. Those who are asymptomatic but come for testing as contacts of COVID-19 positive persons will be given a pamphlet mentioning that if they start developing symptoms they should immediately start with the medicines and if the test report comes positive, then definitely, the persons ought to start with the medicine,” Dr Bandekar said.

“In the second category, the symptomatic persons coming forward for testing will also be given these medicines and asked to start taking them immediately so that their treatment is not delayed till they await the report. These medicines will reduce the severity of the disease,” he said.

The state government on Tuesday also released a modified standard operating procedure (SOP) for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients under home isolation which includes the ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for the patients.  

Commenting on the availability and supply of medical oxygen at GMC, Dr Bandekar said that as of Tuesday, per day requirement of GMC alone was 1 crore litres of oxygen and it is projected that the demand may go up by three times in the near future. He rubbished the allegations that the oxygen was being supplied in COVID wards at GMC at low pressure.

“If you design your manifold for 150 beds and supply to 200 beds, definitely certain pressure…but the pressure is always maintained. Maybe some time if you change the trolley, then for a minute the pressure may go down but that should not be a concern for anybody,” he said.

Dr Jose De Sa informed that the daily requirement of oxygen at the South Goa District Hospital is 20 trolleys, and two trolleys per day for both, the ESI Hospital and the Sub-district Hospital in Ponda. “Each trolley contains 336 cubic metres of oxygen. Besides this, we are using hundreds of 1.6 cubic metre oxygen cylinders and also jumbo cylinders, which have a capacity of 7 cubic metres,” he added.

When asked by a reporter, the Health Minister rubbished the allegations that the Corlim-based Scoop Industries Pvt Ltd is supplying half-filled oxygen cylinders to the GMC. “There is nobody who can cheat the government; we have appointed IAS officers to monitor the supply of oxygen. The Chief Secretary is also personally monitoring the availability of oxygen,” he said.

Rane said that in order to reduce the burden on testing facilities, the government has decided not to allow individuals who are opting for the COVID-19 test for the purpose of travel outside the state. “They can go to a private laboratory and get themselves tested. In the state-run facilities, only symptomatic persons and contacts of the positive persons would be tested for COVID-19,” Rane clarified.

Both, the Health Minister and the dean of GMC claimed that currently there is an adequate supply of oxygen to the COVID wards at GMC.