Gujarat chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who received the first dose of Covishield vaccine on Wednesday, said Tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug used originally for treating rheumatoid arthritis but recently prescribed for treating critically ill Covid-19 patients, was not available in the state. The government, however, is procuring 25,000 vials of the antiviral drug Remdesivir daily, he said.
“Only one company (Roche Pharma) in Switzerland was making Tocilizumab. They have also stopped its production. They have said this is not an injection meant for coronavirus (treatment). So, Tocilizumab is not available,” Rupani told reporters after taking the vaccine at a community health centre in Gandhinagar.
The chief minister had tested positive for the infection in February, a day after he fainted on stage while addressing an election rally in Vadodara.
“I also got infected by corona(virus) 60 days ago. It is not true that those who got infected do not need to take the vaccine. I want to tell the people, that even if you have got corona(virus) in the past, you should take the vaccine as per the advice of your doctor… Those who have taken the vaccine, did not face many hardships. The corona(virus infection) is mild. So, those who have not got infected should also get vaccinated and those who have got Covid-19 should also get vaccinated,” he said.
The state government has started preparations to expand the vaccination drive as the Centre government has allowed the people above 18 years to get inoculated from May 1, he said.
Referring to the availability of Remdesivir injections, the CM said, “We have said this clearly and multiple times, when we are faced with such a grim situation, then availability of everything gets limited. In such times, priority is decided. Gujarat gets 25,000 Remdesivir injections daily. We have only this stock. So, the first priority for this stock is those who are getting treatment in hospitals. This is because, the patient is serious and is in hospital. So, we are giving (the injections) only to hospitals and not to common people.”
Seven companies are producing Remdesivir in the country and both the central and state governments are in talks with them to increase the production, Rupani said. “The production cycle, starting from procuring raw materials is about 20 days, and so, we are currently not in a position to give Remdesivir to common people,” he added.
Asked about the long queues of Covid-19 patients outside the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad, Rupani said the government was working towards increasing the number of beds. “On March 15, we had 41,000 beds, and today this number has reached 80,000. The beds have been doubled within a month. By April 30, we plan to add 8,000 more beds,” he said. No ambulances are being returned from Civil Hospital and instructions have been issued to reduce the waiting time, the CM added.
From April 22, the CM said, 900 beds will be made operational at GMDC in the first phase.