“Prima Facie, Arbitrary And Irrational”: SC Slams Centre’s Vaccine Policy For 18-44 Group

The SC referred to Rs 35,000 crore earmarked for procuring vaccines and asked Centre to clarify “how these funds have been spent so far”.

The Apex Court today, in its detailed order on the issue, said the Centre’s policy of giving free vaccination to 45-plus age group and a paid system for those below is “prima facie, arbitrary and irrational”.

The Supreme Court, calling the issue of vaccination “absolutely crucial”, said: “Reports indicate that persons between 18-44 years of age have not only been infected by COVID-19, but have also suffered from severe effects of the infection, including prolonged hospitalisation and, in unfortunate cases, death. Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis.”

“Hence, 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,” the order read.

The top court referred to Union Budget for 2021-22 which earmarked Rs 35,000 crore for procuring vaccines and asked Centre to clarify “how these funds have been spent so far and why these funds cannot be utilised for vaccinating all (free of cost) in the 18-44 group”.

The SC also asked the centre to provide data on percentage of population that has been vaccinated (both single and double dose) and indicate the percentage of rural population which have been vaccinated so far.

The court also demanded from the centre complete data on its purchase history of all Covid vaccines – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V – till date and indicate the date of placing order, quantity of vaccine ordered and projected date of supply.

The Apex Court, referring to the Centre’s assertion that all eligible persons would be vaccinated by year end, asked government to provide “an outline for how and when the government seeks to vaccinate the remaining populations in phase 1, 2 and 3.”

The court, noting the increasing number of cases of post-Covid complication Mucormycosis, asked the centre to give details of steps being taken by the Centre to ensure supply of drugs for Mucormycosis.

The SC has also directed state governments to file an affidavit stating whether they have decided to vaccinate their populations in 18-45 age group free of cost.

The court, in the end, also asked the centre to place on record relevant documents, file notings reflecting its thinking in Covid-19 vaccination policy.

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