Healthcare professionals and other frontline medical workers who skip COVID-19 vaccination won’t get financial help from the authorities for treatment if they get infected later and won’t be allowed to take quarantine or isolation leave, the Punjab government has said.
The state government has taken a serious view of reports that some healthcare workers are choosing not to get vaccinated, amid rising cases of COVID-19 in some states and low rate of inoculation in Punjab.
“Healthcare workers who do not get vaccinated to boost their immunity for COVID-19, despite being given repeated opportunities and in case they get the infection at a later stage, they will have to bear the cost of their treatment and they will not be allowed to avail quarantine or isolation leave,” Punjab Health Minister Balbir Sidhu said in a statement on Sunday.
Mr Sidhu said COVID-19 cases in Punjab have been rising in recent days, and with 358 cases reported on February 20, some 3,000 cases are active in Punjab while there were only 2,000 active cases or 33 per cent rise three weeks ago.
“There is a dire need to get vaccinated for all healthcare workers to deal with any unprecedented situation. Punjab is among the six states where COVID-19 cases are rising and we should prepare to fight it like a second wave,” the state Health Minister said.
“These rising cases indicate that COVID-19 is not over yet and Punjab may witness a surge in the number of cases. This highlights the need for following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour like social distancing, wearing mask, hand sanitisation and respiratory etiquettes,” Mr Sidhu said.
Expressing concern over the low rate of vaccination among healthcare workers, the Health Minister said so far 2.06 lakh healthcare workers and 1.82 lakh frontline workers have registered for COVID-19 vaccination.
“Some 79,000 or 38 per cent healthcare workers and 4,000 frontline workers have been vaccinated and this coverage has not been up to the mark. The vaccine is safe and effective and not even a single case of death or any serious adverse effect has been reported in Punjab… No one should be misled by rumours and misinformation,” the Health Minister said.
The last date for taking the first dose of vaccine for healthcare workers has been extended from February 19 to 25.
The government’s vaccination plan depends on creating herd immunity by immunising a critical mass of people. In the first phase of vaccination, the government plans to immunise 3 crore health workers and frontline workers. After it will be the turn of 27 crore people who are above the age of 50 years or have co-morbidities.
240 new strains of the coronavirus have surfaced across India, which are behind the fresh surge of infections being seen since last week, Dr Shahshank Joshi, member of Maharashtra’s COVID-19 Task Force, has told NDTV.