20 May 2021 3:35 PM GMT
The Bombay High Court granted the Central Government's Expert Committee time till June 1, 2021 to decide on a door-to-door policy to immunize elderly and disabled citizens who would not be able to visit vaccination centres. The bench added that if the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19's (NEGVAC) decision favours door-to-door vaccination, the Centre need not...
The Bombay High Court granted the Central Government's Expert Committee time till June 1, 2021 to decide on a door-to-door policy to immunize elderly and disabled citizens who would not be able to visit vaccination centres.
The bench added that if the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19's (NEGVAC) decision favours door-to-door vaccination, the Centre need not wait for the court's nod and begin implementation immediately.
"This is a matter that requires in-depth consideration at the hands of the experts," the bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta observed, later adding, "Please convey to them, if better sense prevails, we will not have to pass further orders."
The Union earlier cited a five-pointer on why door-to-door vaccination was not feasible, which the bench had rejected, calling it "arbitrary and unreasonable". On Thursday, the ASG again cited After Effects Following Immunization (AEFI) to oppose home jabs.
Petitioner-in-person advocate Dhruti Kapadia then pointed out the Centre's response to a query in the Lok Sabha.
The court noted there were only 0.2% cases of AEFI reported, most of them being minor.
"You are using AEFI not to start door-to-door vaccination? Your Minister's statement has entirely demolished your reason. The death percentage given is 0.000319% (12 deaths)."
ASG Anil Singh said that he would speak to the NEGVAC's Chairman today itself.
"I will speak to the Chairman of NEGVAC if they are ready to deal with the issue again. You are right, they have not looked at door-to-door as yet", ASG said.
The bench was hearing a PIL by two advocates Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Central and State governments to initiate a door-to-door vaccination drive for citizens above 75, persons with physical disabilities and those who are bed-ridden.
During the hearing, ASG Anil Singh cited an affidavit to show the Centre was serious about vaccination. He said the Centre's objective was to get maximum number of people vaccinated.
"Considering the difficulty we are facing, we may not be reaching every house door-to-door, but, we are reaching buildings or housing societies. We also need to monitor people for after effects. The guidelines are elaborate (informs the bench about transport/storage etc). An ambulance has to be placed where vaccination is happening."
The bench pointed out that if vaccination was being allowed in housing societies, then why not homes. They also sought to know if there was any scientific data available that due to a particular type of vaccine, certain complications have developed.
"We are asking because the petitioner has given data about how (vaccination) is happening in the UK. It is the same vaccine that is being administered over here. So why can't it be done door to door over here?"
"If you have a vaccination programme in a society, all these problems can happen there also. You cannot create a full-fledged ICU over there. You can place a well-equipped ambulance. You are leaving the elderly to choose between the devil and the deep sea. They will either die of Covid or comorbidity."
The bench then pointed out why there were two expert bodies for looking at vaccination. "Has NEGVAC been asked to consider this aspect about door to door vaccination?"
The Chief Justice pointed out that NEGVAC hadn't had a chance to consider formulating a door-to-door vaccination policy.
By then Kapadia also found the Centre's Lok Sabha reply which states as under:
"A total of 7,580, i.e. 0.2% AEFI cases have been reported out of total number vaccinated till 31st January 2021 under Covid-19 vaccination roll-out across the country. Most of these are minor AEFIs like anxiety, vertigo, giddiness, dizziness, fever, pain, rashes, and headache which are self-limiting and all people have recovered. 14 hospitalisations i.e. 0.000372% hospitalisation cases have been reported out of total number vaccinated till 31st January 2021. 12 deaths i.e. 0.000319% death cases out of total number vaccinated till 31st January 2021 not causally related to vaccination presently, have also been reported. These deaths were investigated and examined by the experts and as per current evidence none of these deaths have causal relationship with the Covid-19 vaccination."
The bench then asked NEGVAC to decide if they would come up with a door-to-door vaccination policy.
"We are very disappointed by your stand." – Court to BMC
On Wednesday, the court had asked the BMC if they could start door-to-door vaccination notwithstanding the Centre's nod on the issue.
In an affidavit, the BMC declined to start the program, saying they have always followed the Union's guidelines. When the Central Government comes up with a "door-to-door vaccination policy," State will implement it. Senior Advocate Anil Sakhare also cited the lack of vaccines.
"We are very disappointed by your stand. We are aghast to know that the Bombay Municipal Corporation has succumbed to the pressure. If there is a lack of vaccine, you will stop vaccination for all? Why this selective vaccination?"
During the hearing, Advocate Kapadia said BMC's affidavit is disheartening. She said that Berhampur (Odisha) has started door-to-door vaccination for senior citizens and disabled despite no policy by the Centre and it was going very smoothly.
However, Justice Kulkarni pointed out that it was stopped today because the Centre didn't give its nod.
CoWIN Registration Problems PIL
The bench cited the experience of a young lawyer's father who was given an appointment between 9-11am for vaccination but finally managed to get inoculated only at 4pm.
"There have been other instances where people have had appointments and have been asked to go back as the vaccines were not there.
"Instead of people chasing the vaccine, you should chase people and get them vaccinated. You will make them stand in queue and make them Covid positive. You should reach out to people," the Chief Justice observed.
However, Singh said there was a misunderstanding, and this was not the Centre's fault. He read the Centre's press note to say they have asked States and UTs to prepare a list of places for vaccination till June 2021 and publish a calender in advance.
"We have issued advisories, given the details with timelines for two weeks in advance."
The Court will now hear the matters on June 2.
[Dhruti Kapadia & oths vs UOI]