Relook at decision of not allowing door-to-door vaccination for elderly, kids, Bombay HC tells Centre
Expressing concerns over the lack of any policy by the Central government for vaccinating specially-abled and senior citizens with severe disabilities, the Bombay high court (HC) observed that such persons cannot be left to die and directed the Union ministry of health and family welfare (MoHFW) to relook at its decision of not allowing door-to-door vaccination for elderly and find a solution and way to get them vaccinated.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mumbai-based lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Centre, the state government and BMC to provide door-to-door vaccination facility for people over 75 years of age, the disabled and the bedridden, was informed that the MoHFW had filed an affidavit in response to the court’s direction in the earlier hearing.
The affidavit stated that there could not be a door-to-door vaccination policy as it would lead to “high vaccine wastage and contamination leading to a reduction in efficacy”, and that the protocols on physical distancing and infection prevention, including a 30-minute observation period, would not be followed.
The MoHFW affidavit had also stated that in the case of adverse event following immunization (AEFI), there could be a delay in reaching the health facility and managing that case may not be as per requirement. The affidavit also stated it was not mandatory to administer the vaccine close to an intensive care unit ( ICU), “The occurrence of serious/severe AEFI is very rare, which may not necessarily require admission into ICU. Hence, there is no such requirement for an ICU for the administration of vaccines.”
After perusing the 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 the 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.”
When additional solicitor general (ASG) Anil Singh for the Union of India submitted that in case of co-morbidities, there would be a risk in door-to-door vaccination to senior citizens. The court observed, “This is choosing between the devil and the deep sea. You do not want patients with comorbidities to be given vaccines without supervision, but because they cannot come to the vaccination centre, you want them to suffer?... In our country, old people and children should be taken care of on priority...We cannot leave old people to die...It is upon us that our near and dear ones get vaccinated.”
Thereafter, Kapadia urged the HC to pass orders to waive off mandatory documents like Aadhaar or PAN card for vaccination, however, ASG opposed it and said that some document was required for it. The court then observed, “If some person is living under the bridge, then will not he/she carry the disease? Then what do we do? Unless you start a drive to get an Aadhar card for everyone.”
The court directed the MoHFW to have a relook at its decision and said that it would give ‘prima facie’ opinions on the five reasons given by the Centre for not being able to have a door-to-door policy for vaccination and posted the hearing of the PIL to May 6.