Bombay HC asks Centre to reconsider policy of not allowing door-to-door COVID vaccination
Mumbai: Expressing dissatisfaction over the Centre's affidavit citing the reasons for not allowing door-to-door vaccination for senior citizens, specially-abled or medically challenged citizens, the Bombay High Court has asked the centre to relook at its decision and find a way to get those people vaccinated.
The High Court division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni, during the recent hearing of the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by two Mumbai-based lawyers, mentioned that "We expected a better affidavit with more facts and figures from the Centre. There needs to be a solution. You need to have a relook at it."
The Mumbai-based lawyers approached the High Court recently seeking directions to Central Government for constituting an urgent policy to get the Senior citizens, Specially Abled and medically challenged people vaccinated easily by offering door-to-door vaccination.
Live Law reports that the two petitioners mentioned in their PIL that denying door-to-door vaccination for those people would be denying them the right to life and good health under the article 21 of the constitution.
However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in its affidavit cited several reasons for not allowing door-to-door vaccination and had stated that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration (NEGVA) for Covid19 has been guiding all aspects of the vaccination drive, Live Law adds.
As per the affidavit filed by the Centre, the reasons for not allowing vaccination other than at the vaccination centres are-
1. In case of Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI), there might be a delay in reaching the health facility. This way, such complications would not be possible to manage as per requirement.
2. There may be challenges in maintaining the protocol of observation of the beneficiary for 30 mins after the vaccination.
3. As for the door-to-door vaccination, the vaccine would be required to be taken out of the vaccine carrier and this would lead to contamination. The affidavit further stated that exposure beyond recommended temperature could affect the efficacy of the dose and increase the chances of Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI).
4. This plan of allowing vaccination at doors could lead to high vaccine wastage due to the increased time to reaching each beneficiary.
5. It may be difficult to follow protocols of physical distancing during door-to-door campaigns.
However, Hindustan Times reports that the affidavit also mentioned that it was not mandatory to administer the vaccine close to an intensive care unit (ICU).
"The occurrence of serious/severe AEFI is very rare, which may not necessarily require admission into ICU. Hence, there is no such requirement for an ICU for the administration of vaccines," stated the affidavit.
After taking note of the reasons cited for not allowing the door-to-door vaccination, the HC bench questioned,
"There are ICUs in ambulances, you cannot keep a refrigerator? Where is the study that shows there will be wastage due to the time taken to reach the beneficiary? We expected a better affidavit with more facts and figures from the Centre. There needs to be a solution. You need to have a relook at it."
Addressing the concern of the Additional solicitor general (ASG) that in case of co-morbidities, there would be a risk in door-to-door vaccination to senior citizens, the Court observed,
"This is choosing between the devil and the deep sea. You do not want patients with comorbidities to be given vaccines without supervision, but because they cannot come to the vaccination centre, you want them to suffer?... In our country, old people and children should be taken care of on priority...We cannot leave old people to die...It is upon us that our near and dear ones get vaccinated."
HT adds that during the hearing the petitioner requested the Court to waive off mandatory documents like Aadhaar or PAN card for vaccination. However, the counsel for the centre opposed this and mentioned that these documents were mandatory.
Following this, the court observed,
"If some person is living under the bridge, then will not he/she carry the disease? Then what do we do? Unless you start a drive to get an Aadhar card for everyone."
Thus, asking the MoHFW to have a relook at its decision, the HC bench further mentioned that it would give 'prima facie' opinions on the five reasons given by the Centre for not being able to have a door-to-door policy for vaccination. The matter would be next heard on May 6.