The apex court asked the Centre to furnish complete data related to vaccines purchased so far including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V.
Days after observing that vaccine prices should be the same across the nation, the Supreme Court of India today said that the central government’s policy of free vaccination for those 45 and above and a paid system for those between 18-44 age group is “arbitrary and Irrational”. The court pointed out the changing nature of the pandemic saying that many people in the 18-44 years age group have not only been infected by COVID-19 but have also suffered severe complications, including prolonged hospitalisation and deaths in some unfortunate cases.
The order also said that the liberalised policy does not prioritise persons with co-morbidities. “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,” it said.
The top court said that the country is now facing a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated while priority may be retained between different age groups based on scientific data.
“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,” reads the court order.
The apex court asked the Centre to furnish complete data related to vaccines purchased so far including Covaxin, Covishield and Sputnik V. “The Court ordered that 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,” reads the order.
The top court also asked the Government of India to provide an outline of how it plans to vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2 and 3.