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'Don't Give False Hope To People That They'll Get Vaccine' : Karnataka HC Directs State To Inform Steps Taken To Procure Second Doses

Mustafa Plumber
20 May 2021 3:40 PM GMT
Dont Give False Hope To People That Theyll Get Vaccine : Karnataka HC Directs State To Inform Steps Taken To Procure Second Doses
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Observing that the situation regarding vaccination in the State of Karnataka continues to be critical, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the state government to place on record the steps it has taken to procure 7,04,050 doses of Covishield and 2,44,170 doses of Covaxin, to be given as second doses to people who are due as per timeline framed by body of experts. A...

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Observing that the situation regarding vaccination in the State of Karnataka continues to be critical, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday directed the state government to place on record the steps it has taken to procure 7,04,050 doses of Covishield and 2,44,170 doses of Covaxin, to be given as second doses to people who are due as per timeline framed by body of experts.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar said "We direct state and central government to place on record material to show what steps are being taken to ensure that no beneficiary who has completed six weeks after taking the first dose of Covaxin is denied the second dose. Necessary material shall be placed on record by next Tuesday."

As per details submitted to the court as on May 18, more than 4,55,084, who have taken Covaxin first dose have completed 4 weeks. As on date 39,457 beneficiaries have completed 3 weeks. 22,780 have completed 2 weeks. 16,000 have completed one week.

As of today 97,440 doses of Covaxin are available with the state government. The stand of the Government of India is that in the second fortnight of May 2021. A total of 1,64,840 free doses will be allocated to the state and the state government can purchase 2,44,170 doses by direct procurement.

On going through this the court said "We direct the state government to place on record what efforts the state government has made to procure 2,44,170 doses."

It added "Going by the figures given by the state government it can be broadly stated that by end of May more 4,50,000 beneficiaries who had taken the first dose of Covaxin will complete six weeks. Therefore, even as regards Covaxin there is a serious issue of shortage of vaccine."

As regards Covishield, the court was informed that as on May 16, 80,42,371 beneficiaries have received their first dose of Covishield vaccine and 22,08,320 beneficiaries received their second dose of Covishiled. A total of 58,34,050 beneficiaries will require the second dose in future. As of today total stock of Covishield vaccine available with the state is 7,14,140.

The court said "Thus as far as covishield is concerned looking at the larger picture by taking figures as correct there is going to be shortage of doses even for those who have taken the first dose. State government will have to place on record what efforts it has made to procure 7,04,050 doses."

During the hearing the bench orally said "We know that there is no magical wand to make vaccines. But let the people know about the availability of vaccines and they should be more prepared, wear masks and follow other precautions. Don't give false hope to the people that they will get the vaccine."

It added "The picture that is being shown as of now is that everyone will get a vaccine. The State government and Central government must inform the people. The state government must come out with a white paper on the availability of vaccines in the state. State government should go to the public and make a declaration, so that people don't go to vaccine centres with a hope and come back without a vaccine."

Follow Timeline for administering second dose of vaccine.

As per a letter issued by the Central government to all the state Chief Secretaries on May 13, which draws the recommendations of the body of experts, it is stated that a second dose of Covishield can be administered between12 to16 weeks from first dose instead of earlier interval of 6 to 8 weeks. The interval between two doses applicable to Covaxin, remains unchanged.

It was pointed out across the bar whether the person who does not get the second dose within the deadline fixed by the body of experts will have to take the first dose all over again.

The court said "We are not going to go into this question for the simple reason we are examining the issue of vaccination in the light of Right to Health, which is an integral part of Article 21 of Constitution of India. If the body of experts recommends a timeline which is accepted by the Central Government, to ensure that there is effective vaccination those timelines will have to be abided by."

It added "For vaccination to become effective as one of the important measures to prevent the spread of covid-19. It is imperative for all concerned to ensure that recommendations of body experts which are accepted by the Government of Indian are followed in true letter and spirit."

Should the State government direct private agencies to prioritise on giving second doses only?

Senior Advocate Jayna Kothari pointed out to the court that private agencies are administering first doses even when there is a shortage of vaccine for second dose and for people belonging to the age group of 60 and above.

Amicus Vikram Huilgol pointed out that as per the Central government policy out of 50 percent of supply by manufacturers 25 percent can be procured by private agencies and as such there is no regulation on them.

Similarly, advocate G R Mohan informed the court that more private agencies are charging over Rs 850 per vaccine and the first dose is being given on payment.

The court said "There are two aspects. Firstly, whether the state government is going to give priority for the second dose to those who are in the age group of 60 and above. Second aspect is the administration of a second dose by private agencies."

It noted that since the state has taken a stand that except for frontline and health workers no one will get first dose, the question is whether private agencies can be permitted to administer the first dose. Second part is when, through the state government, even those who are above 60 are not getting second doses easily, whether private agencies can be permitted to administer second doses to those who are in the age group of 45 to 60 years.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati informed the court that state is not powerless to issue directions to private agencies on this behalf.

Following which the court said "When we are dealing with aforesaid two aspects we are directly dealing with not only the issue of Right to Health but also violation of Article 14 of constitution of india. When there is an acute shortage of second dose, the state government will have to come out with an appropriate policy which will be rational and fair. The response of the state on policy and question of issuing direction to private agencies, should be filed on next Tuesday."

It added "Considering the situation prevailing in the State of Karnataka, whether private agencies can be allowed to administer the first dose. Even the stand shall be taken by the central government by next date."

Second dose deferred of those infected with covid after getting first dose.

ASG Bhati brought to the notice of the court a letter written on May 19 by the Government of India to all states informing about the important protocols that have been incorporated. One of the protocol records that the second dose of those who have been infected with Covid-19 will be deferred by three months after recovery.

Accordingly, the court said "In the context of what is argued we may note here that the state government will have to meticulously re-work the requirement of second dose of the beneficiaries of those who have taken the first dose. The state government can work out the figures date wise of number of beneficiaries who will be completing 16- weeks in case of Covishield and six weeks in case of Covaxin, while doing so state will have to exclude those whose dose has been deferred by three months, as stated in the letter dated May 19."

It added "Unless the state government generates precise data of requirement of second dose on everyday basis it may not be possible to effectively administer the second dose to all those who have taken the first dose. State government will have to respond on this on the next date.


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