Centre's paid Covid-19 vaccination policy for 18-44 years 'arbitrary and irrational': Supreme Court
The Supreme Court has sought a response from the Centre to clarify how the Rs 35,000-crore budget for procuring vaccine is being spent and why it cannot be used for vaccinating the 18-44 age group.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Centre over its policy of paid COVID-19 vaccination for 18-44 age group terming it 'arbitrary and irrational'.
As such, the SC sought a response from the Centre to clarify how the Rs 35,000-crore budget for procuring vaccine is being spent and why it cannot be used for vaccinating the 18-44 age group.
The directive was issued by a bench comprising of Justices, Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat.
The bench also directed the Centre to include the purchase history till date of all COVID-19 vaccine doses, including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V. In addition, it also asked for the dates of all procurement orders placed by the Centre for all three vaccines; the quantity of vaccines ordered as on each date; and the projected date of supply.
During the course of the hearing, the apex court noted that many people in the 18-44 year age group have not been not only been infected by the viral infection but have also suffered from severe effects of the infection, including prolonged hospitalisation and, in unfortunate cases, death.
"Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis. Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational," the Supreme Court stated in its order.
The order further reads, “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 an 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 has directed the state government to file an affidavit stating if the states were ready to vaccinate people in the 18-44-year age group free of cost. The case has been listed for further hearing on June 30.