New Delhi: The Central government on Saturday (June 26, 2021) submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court and said that the efforts are on to vaccinate India's entire adult population against COVID-19 by December 31 of this year. In its 375-page affidavit, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said that the COVID-19 vaccine procurement policy was changed by the central government following which the states and smaller private hospitals complained of difficulty in getting the jabs.

The Centre said that the states and UTs have been asked to arrive at an "aggregate demand of private hospitals" to ensure equitable distribution of jabs.

"Based upon this aggregate demand, the Government of India will facilitate supply of these vaccines to the private hospitals and their payment would be sent by the respective private hospitals to the manufacturers only through the electronic platform of Government of India," read the affidavit.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s affidavit also stated that India would need 186 to 188 crore doses of vaccine to inoculate its adult population, which stands at 93-94 crore, adding that over 51.6 crore of those doses will be made available by July 31. 

The Centre also added that efforts are being made towards procuring 135 crore doses of the various vaccines, including 50 crore doses of Covishield, 40 crore doses of Covaxin, 30 crore doses of BioE’s jab, 10 crore doses of the Sputnik V vaccine and 5 crore doses of Zydus Cadila’s DNA vaccine, between August and December of this year.

The 375-page affidavit was a reply to a slew of questions raised by the top court on May 31. A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud had slammed the Centre’s COVID-19 vaccination policy on May 31 and has stated that the policy was “prima facie arbitrary and irrational”. The bench called out Centre to be irrational as the authorities allowed the states and private hospitals to charge those eligible in the third COVID-19 vaccination drive, people belonging to 18-44 age group, while the jabs were offered free for groups in the first two phases

“To put the same position differently, a person below the poverty line and a multi-millionaire are equally entitled for the very same vaccine in the age group of 18 years and above free of cost,” the affidavit said.

In the affidavit, the Centre also assured the apex court that the digital divide in the country or restricted access to the internet will not affect COVID-19 vaccination numbers in rural or remote areas, adding that over 74.45 percent of all vaccination centers in the country are located in rural areas, said the government.

The Centre also added that high rates of vaccination are being observed even in remote areas in Ladakh, Tripura and Lakshwadeep, compared to the national average.

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