Ahead of the hearing in the suo moto COVID case on June 30, the Central Government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, in the light of several issues flagged by the Court with respect to the earlier vaccination policy.
As directed by the Court, the Centre has given details about the projection of vaccine availability from five approved vaccines - Covishied, Covaxin, Bios E Sub Unit Vaccine, Zydus Cadilla DNA vaccine and Sputnik V.
186 to 188 crore doses of vaccines will be required for the double-doses to the eligible population of 93-94 crores above the age of 18 years. Out of this, 51.6 crore doses would be made available by July 31. Between August 2021 and December 2021, a total of 135 crore vaccines will be available in India, the Centre estimated.
From the figures and tables given, Centre is aiming to complete the vaccination for the entire eligible population by the end of 2021. It is submitted that the vaccination drive would get a boost if the Government of India succeeds in its attempts to procure vaccines available outside India such as vaccines of Pfizer,Johnson & Johnson, Moderna etc. The Centre said that as efforts are at an advanced stage, it is neither desirable nor possible to give comprehensive details of these facts.
The Centre also expressed the hope that Zydus Cadila vaccine might be available for the age group 12-18 years in the near future.
Vaccine strategy revised after States requested
The Centre also informed the Supreme Court about its decision taken on June 7 to revise the vaccine strategy, following letters received from 13 Chief Ministers and several health minsters highlighting problems faced by states in the earlier policy, as per which states were required to procure vaccines from manufactures from their allotted quota of 25%.
As per the revised policy, which came into effect from June 21, Centre will procure vaccines for the States. Also, every person aged above 18 years will be eligible for free vaccination, regardless of the financial position, the government assured. It may be noted that the Supreme Court had earlier urged the Centre to revisit the paid vaccination policy for 18-44 years, by terming it prima facie "arbitrary".
On Court concerns about "digital divide"
Responding to the concerns raised by the Court regarding the "digital divide" excluding marginalized people from Co-Win registration, the Central Government has reiterated its earlier stand that there are alternate methods to ensure access for such categories of people.
The Centre has clarified that the option of "walk-in registration" is permissible and hence "digital divide" will not be a constraint.
"Walk-in [on-site registration] vaccination is permissible for all and digital divide is not a constraint for access to vaccination," the government underscored.
No door-to-door vaccination
Also, adopting the stand taken before the Bombay High Court, the Centre has advised against 'door-to-door vaccination' citing several feasibility issues, and has suggested that 'near-to home vaccination' as a viable alternative.
It said that door to door vaccination for disabled will not be carried on as it is not provisioned under the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme.
This was because of issues such as risk of break in cold chain, vaccine wastage, delay in reaching health facility resulting in derailment of time schedule of vaccination programme etc.
The committee recommended a community-based approach of Near-to-Home COVID Vaccination Centres (NHCVCs) for the differently abled and elderly citizens.
"NHCVCs follow a community-based approach where sessions can be conducted in non-health facility-based settings and are nearer to homes e.g. in a community centre, RWA centre/office, housing complexes, panchayat ghars,, school buildings, old age homes etc. home required homes, hostels for disabled persons etc," the affidavit said.
Involvement of private hospitals desirable
The Centre has also said that involvement of private hospitals is desirable.
"In any public health program – be it vaccination or otherwise, involvement of private hospitals is always found desirable. It is respectfully submitted that as per the statistics available, approximately, 55 per cent of the population of the country seeks and gets medical care / health services from private hospitals and 45 per cent gets health care services from government hospitals," the affidavit said.