Udayavni Special

SC slams centre’s vaccination policy for 18-44 age group; seeks roadmap of projected availability of vaccines


Team Udayavani, Jun 2, 2021, 5:52 PM IST

 

New Delhi: Terming the Centre’s decision of having a paid system for vaccination of those in 18-44 age group as “irrational” and “arbitrary”, the apex court on Wednesday asked the Centre to review its vaccination policy and “place on record a roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021”.

A special bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L N Rao and S Ravindra Bhat that people in the 18-44 year age group are not just getting infected, but suffering from severe effects of the infection, “including prolonged hospitalization and, in unfortunate cases, death”.

Calling the issue of vaccination “absolutely crucial”, the court said currently people in the 18-44 year age group are not just getting infected, but suffering from severe effects of the infection, “including prolonged hospitalization and, in unfortunate cases, death”.

The changing nature of the pandemic has created a situation where this younger age bracket also needs to be vaccinated, “although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis,” the court said.

The SC bench said, “While filing it’s affidavit, UoI shall also ensure that copies of all the relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking and culminating in the vaccination policy are also annexed on the vaccination policy.

Hence, we direct the UoI to file its affidavit within 2 weeks,” the bench said in its May 31 order uploaded on Wednesday on its website.

The bench asked the Centre to ensure that each issue dealt by it in the order is responded to individually.

“The complete data on the Central Government’s purchase history of all the COVID-19 vaccines till date (Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V). The data should clarify: (a) the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Central Government for all 3 vaccines; (b) the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and (c) the projected date of supply,” the bench said.

The top court’s order came in suo motu case on COVID-19 management.

The bench also sought data on the percentage of population that has been vaccinated (with one, and both doses), as against eligible persons in the first three phases of the vaccination drive.

“This shall include data pertaining to the percentage of rural population as well as the percentage of urban population so vaccinated,” it said, adding that an outline for how and when the Central Government seeks to vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2 and 3, shall also be given.

The bench noted that the Centre its May 9 affidavit stated that every state/UT shall provide vaccination free of cost to its population and said that it is important that individual governments confirm/deny this position before the apex court.

“Further, if they have decided to vaccinate their population for free then, as a matter of principle, it is important that this policy is annexed to their affidavit, so that the population within their territories can be assured of their right to be vaccinated for free at a State vaccination centre.

”Hence, we direct each of the State/UT Governments to also file an affidavit within 2 weeks, where they shall clarify their position and put on record their individual policies,” the bench said.

It listed the matter for further hearing on June 30.

On May 31, the top court had highlighted “digital divide” between rural and urban India and posed searching queries to the Centre on mandatory registration on CoWIN for COVID jabs, vaccine procurement policy and differential pricing, saying the policy makers “must have ears on ground” to effectively deal with the “unprecedented” crisis.

Asking the Centre to ”smell the coffee” and ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are available at the same price across the nation, the top court had advised the government to be flexible with its policies to deal with the “dynamic pandemic situation”.

The top court had, however, hailed the Centre and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar for the efforts to deal with the pandemic saying, “The idea is not to criticize or pull down anybody. When the EAM went to the USA and entered into the dialogue, it showed the importance of the situation”. Justice Chandrachud, who himself is recovering from coronavirus infection, had questioned the vaccine procurement policy and raised the issue of digital divide questioning the policy of mandatory registration on CoWIN App for jabs.

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