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High Court flags vaccine inequity, asks Centre, Karnataka to examine

The Karnataka government had halted the vaccination programme for the 18-44 group on May 14 due to shortages in the supply of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech and Covishield from Serum Institute of India.

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
Updated: May 28, 2021 7:34:06 am
A division bench of the High Court asked the both Centre and state to examine the issue in the context of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law.

The Karnataka High Court Thursday flagged the unavailability of first doses for the 18-44 group in government centres at a time the private sector was carrying out vaccinations for the age cohort as, asking the Centre to take a stand on the issue.

A division bench of the High Court asked the both Centre and state to examine the issue in the context of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law.

The Karnataka government had halted the vaccination programme for the 18-44 group on May 14 due to shortages in the supply of Covaxin from Bharat Biotech and Covishield from Serum Institute of India.

The state is now providing first doses of the Covishield vaccine only to frontline workers in the 18-44 age group to conserve stocks to provide second doses to other beneficiaries. However, first doses are available for the 18-44 group in the private sector.

On May 20, the court had asked the state and Centre about the inequity in the vaccination programme for the 18-44 group.

Since the state government had decided that only frontline workers and health workers in that group would get first doses, “the question is whether private agencies can be permitted to administer the first dose,” the High Court had observed on May 20.

The state should consider issuing appropriate directions to private agencies since it is a matter of violation of the right to health and Article 14 of the Constitution of India, the HC said.

“We also make it clear that even the Central Government will have to take a stand on this issue whether in the context of the situation prevailing in the state of Karnataka, the private agencies can be permitted to administer the first dose of vaccine,” the High Court said.

Following the May 20 orders the Karnataka government had issued an advisory to private hospitals on May 24 asking them to use the Covaxin vaccine only for giving second doses to beneficiaries from the 45-plus group who are eligible for second shots.

The High Court last week also raised questions over the move to vaccinate the 18-44 age group when thousands of other people faced the prospect of not getting their second doses at all.

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