Terming vaccine policy ‘arbitrary’, SC asks Centre for spend details

Terming vaccine policy ‘arbitrary’, SC asks Centre for spend details

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The apex court told the Centre to place on record all relevant documents and files reflecting its thinking culminating in the Covid-19 vaccination policy.

Terming the “paid Covid-19 vaccination policy” for the 18-44 age group as “arbitrary and irrational”, the Supreme Court has asked the Centre to place its entire data on record giving details of the purchase history of all Covid-19 vaccines within two weeks.

The apex court also asked the central government to clarify how `35,000 crore earmarked for Covid vaccine procurement in the Union Budget was being spent.
And why the same could not be utilised for vaccinating persons in the 18-44 age group, the Bench said, while noting that the second wave of the pandemic affected many people in the 18-44 age group.

The apex court told the Centre to place on record all relevant documents and files reflecting its thinking culminating in the Covid-19 vaccination policy.
Releasing its detailed order on the hearing conducted in a Suo Motu matter on May 31, a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said: “The data should clarify: (a) the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Central Government for all three vaccines; (b) the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and (c) the projected date of supply”.

At present, the Centre’s vaccination policy provides for free vaccination for those 45 and above and a paid system for those between 18-44 age group.

“Unlike the prior policy, the Liberalized Vaccination policy does not prioritise persons with co-morbidities and other diseases, persons with disabilities, or any other vulnerable groups. This is especially at issue because the experience of the second wave of the pandemic has provided experiential learning that the Covid-19 virus is capable of mutation and now poses a threat to persons in this age group (18-44) as well,” the court observed.

The top court also asked the Centre to submit update on steps taken to ensure drug availability for mucormycosis.

The judges also said the Centre should bring on record an outline for how and when it seeks to vaccinate the remaining population. It also sought data on the percentage of urban and rural population that has been vaccinated – with either one or both doses – against the eligible population.

Additionally, the top court asked all states and union territories to clarify their stand on providing free vaccination within two weeks.

The SC has posted the matter for further hearing on June 30.

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