Centre files plea against allowing 2nd dose of Covishield earlier, says it will derail policy

Centre, Covishield, Kerala HC, Vaccine, Vaccine diplomacy

The Centre on Wednesday filed an appeal in the Kerala High Court against its order allowing the second Covishield dose after four weeks from the first for those who want to take it earlier than the present suggested gap of 84 days by saying if the decision is not set aside it could derail the vaccination policy of the country.

The Centre, in its appeal, contends that the September 3 judgement of a Single Judge of the High Court if not set aside would result in disorder in the implementation of the strategy of the Union government to fight COVID-19.

The September 3 decision by Justice P B Suresh Kumar had come on a plea by Kitex Garments Ltd, represented by advocate Blaze K Jose, seeking permission to administer the second dose of the vaccine to its workers without having to wait for 84 days.

Kitex, in its plea, had said it has vaccinated more than 5,000 of its workers with the first dose and has arranged for the second dose at a cost of nearly Rs 93 lakh, but was unable to administer the same due to the prevailing restrictions. Challenging the September 3 judgement, the Centre said it was an attempt to evaluate the issue on the basis of the right to equality provided in the Constitution instead of viewing it from a scientific angle and if allowed, would result in social disaster which should not be allowed to happen.

“The judgement of the Single Judge will derail the vaccination policy throughout the country,” it said. The petition further said,”The Single Judge ought to have seen that if the government is forced to honour the claims of other groups or industrial units like the petitioners (Kitex Garments), the same would have a cascading adverse effects on the organised and regulated pattern of vaccine administration.” It said, “The Single Judge’s decision would militate against the settled position that in matters related to government policy supported by scientific study, the court shall not meddle with nor substitute its view with the view of the administration.”

“Therefore, the judgement is illegal, erroneous, unjustifiable and unsustainable,” the petition said. The petition contended that the national vaccine policy is formulated based on the opinion and advice of experts in the field and also based on clinical trials and hence, any change in the policy can only be carried out based on the necessary approvals and clinical trials. The Union Health Ministry officials said the decision to increase the gap between two doses of Covishield from four-six weeks to 12-16 weeks was taken by the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation in India (NTAGI) based on scientific data and for providing optimal protection from the infectious disease.

“Vaccines are provided in an uniform manner for the population and are not being offered on the basis of one’s paying capacity,” an official said. The Single Judge, on September 3, directed the Centre to allow scheduling, on the CoWIN portal, of the second Covishield dose after four weeks from the first for those who want to take it earlier than the present suggested gap of 84 days.

Justice P B Suresh Kumar had said that if the Central and State governments can permit persons travelling abroad to choose between early and better protection from COVID-19, there is no reason why the same privilege cannot be extended to those here who want early protection in connection with their employment or education. On this, the Centre, in its appeal, said it had offered relaxations in favour of certain person who were a separate class by themselves and for valid reasons and Kitex cannot claim parity with them.

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