Centre not utilising vaccine doses adequately: Delhi HC
- It also asked the Centre why it was donating or selling Covid-19 vaccines to foreign countries at a time when the drive to inoculate Indian citizens was not optimised.
The Delhi high court on Thursday questioned the Centre over the rationale behind restricting Covid-19 vaccines only to people above 60 years of age or above 45 with serious co-morbidities, and observed that the government wasn’t adequately utilising doses made available by manufactures.
It also asked the Centre why it was donating or selling Covid-19 vaccines to foreign countries at a time when the drive to inoculate Indian citizens was not optimised.
“We are not utilising Covid-19 vaccines fully. We are either donating it to foreign countries or selling it to them, and are not vaccinating our own people. There has to be that sense of responsibility and urgency,” the bench of justice Vipin Sanghi and Rekha Palli told additional solicitor general Chetan Sharma, who was representing the Union government.
The court also directed the Centre to file an affidavit giving the rationale behind restricting people by creating age categories for who can be vaccinated, and the rationale behind defining co-morbidites that make people above 45 eligible.
At the same time, the bench asked the two firms that make the vaccines administered in India — Serum Institute of India, which makes Covishield, and Bharat Biotech, which makes Covaxin — to put on record their maximum manufacturing capacities.
The two companies, represented by their counsel, told the court that they had excess vaccines available for supply, but could only make them available based on permissions by the Union government.
The bench then told the firms to furnish details such as their daily, weekly and monthly manufacturing capacity; how much of the current capacity was going unutilized; and if the capacity could be scaled up further.
The bench was hearing a suo motu (on its own) case on the premise that judges, court staff and lawyers should be considered as frontline workers, and hence, should be vaccinated on priority.
The hearing comes at a time when experts have been calling for teachers to also be included as frontline workers irrespective of their age since schools have reopened in several states, and are on the verge of reopening for all classes in several others.
So far, India has provided over 46.1 million vaccine doses to several countries around the world, both as grants and commercial supplies.
“There is no shortage of Covid-19 vaccines in the country; in fact, the supply chain is phenomenal. What the focus will be on is optimum utilisation of the current vaccination capacity, and gradually scaling up to vaccinate the target population,” siad Dr NK Arora, member, National Task Force on Covid.
On Wednesday, when it first took up the matter, the bench said there were chances of infections rising once physical hearings resume in the Capital on March 15, and sought the presence of counsel for the Centre and the vaccine manufacturers.
During Thursday’s hearings, apart from asking for affidavits from the Centre and the two firms, the court also directed the Delhi government to carry out inspection of medical facilities in courts, and to create infrastructure for vaccination of people connected with the judicial processes, including advocates.
The Centre said in its response that lawyers were indeed frontline workers, and the issue of vaccinating them will be discussed with the concerned ministry.
The matter will be now heard on March 10.