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Bombay HC directs Centre to ‘relook’ its decision against door-to-door vaccination policy

‘Elderly citizens being asked to choose between devil and deep sea’

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
April 23, 2021 12:01:30 am
The Aurangabad bench of the HC, after perusing several news reports, on April 22 initiated a suo motu PIL to address issues of funeral rites of Covid-19 patients, shortage of medical oxygen supply and black marketing of Remdesivir among others.

Observing that senior citizens should be given priority and cannot be left to die, the Bombay High Court on Thursday directed the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) to have a relook at its decision of not allowing door-to-door vaccination for the elderly and find a solution or “via media” to cater to their requirement of getting vaccinated.

A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was hearing a PIL filed by Mumbai-based lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Centre, the Maharashtra government and the BMC to provide door-to-door vaccination facility for people over 75 years of age, the disabled and the bedridden.

The MOHFW, through its affidavit in reply to the PIL, had told the HC that there cannot be a door-to-door vaccination policy as it would lead to “high vaccine wastage and contamination leading to reduction in efficacy”, and that the protocols pertaining to physical distancing and infection prevention, including 30-minute observation period, cannot be followed.

Referring to the Centre’s affidavit, the court questioned, “There are ICUs in ambulances, you cannot keep a refrigerator? Where is the study that shows there will be wastage due to 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.”

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh for the central government submitted that in case of co-morbidities, there will be risk after door-to-door vaccination to senior citizens.

“If indeed, vaccination of elderly citizens by adopting a door-to-door vaccination policy is being avoided because such elderly citizens are aged and suffer from comorbidities, we regretfully record that the elderly citizens are literally being asked to choose between the devil and the deep sea. A policy which leads to such a conclusion has to be viewed as arbitrary and unreasonable, for the elderly citizens are entitled to the protection of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as much as the young and able-bodied citizenry of the country. It is, thus, difficult to sustain such a reason,” HC added.

The court, while directing the MoHFW to have a relook at its decision, gave “prima facie” opinions on the five reasons given by the Centre for not being able to have a door-to-door policy for vaccination. ASG Singh assured that the Centre will relook the decision within two weeks.

The HC will hear the PIL next on May 6.

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