Updated: June 8, 2021 9:04:35 pm
The Bombay High Court appreciated Tuesday the central government’s decision of “near to home” Covid-19 vaccination centres for elderly and disabled persons but asked it to consider further measures to remove the difficulties and risks, cited by it, for initiating “door-to-door” inoculation of the needy.
Through an affidavit filed Monday, the centre government informed the HC that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), has recommended “near to door/home” vaccination centres will be more appropriate than “door-to-door” drives for the elderly and disabled persons.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni’s observations came Tuesday while hearing a PIL filed by city-based lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Centre, the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to provide door-to-door vaccination to those aged over 75, disabled and bed-ridden persons.
On May 20, the court had asked why the authorities could not take a step further and visit homes of beneficiaries who were unable to visit vaccination centres and vaccinate them.
The Centre’s affidavit, filed through Satyendra Singh, undersecretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), also stated that 25,309 Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) cases were reported till May 28 of which 1,186 were serious and severe. It also said 475 deaths were reported following vaccination.
“NEGVAC agreed that since the specially abled and bed-ridden elderly persons have limited mobility due to their physical conditions, there is a need to increase access by bringing vaccination services closer to such maintaining all necessary precautions,” the affidavit stated.
A “unanimous” decision, the Centre said, was taken on May 25 that vaccines cannot be given at home due to issues and risks cited by the expert committee, which include addressing AEFI in a timely and effective manner.
Based on NEGVAC’S observations, MoHFW, through decisions on May 27 and 31, issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to all states and Union Territories pertaining to “near to home” vaccination drives. The Centre such the strategy would be “flexible, people-centric and follows community-based approach” where sessions could be conducted at facilities near home, such as schools, old-age homes, Resident Welfare Association (RWA) office, sub-health centres, panchayat office, among others.
The MoHFW clarified that while “near to home” vaccination will be a “pan-India policy” at this stage, after “assessing the situation on the ground, which is transformative and dynamic, appropriate changes” will be made to amend the decision.
After perusing Centre’s affidavit, HC told Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, representing the Centre: “We appreciate that you are coming up with ‘near to door’ policy, but we would like you to take instructions on as to how endeavour can be made to overcome the concerns/ difficulties raised (about door-to-door vaccination) to help needy. We will not interfere in the scientific decision but you have to find your own ways and means.”
Seeking a response from the central government, HC posted a further hearing on June 9.
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