While India was somewhat saved from the first wave of COVID-19, the second wave of the pandemic hit Indians hard and left many dead bodies in its wake.
A month has passed and Indians are still reeling from the shock and are coming to terms with the loss of lives around us.
The initial days of horror and anger over the intentional negligence of the government are now slowly being replaced with the hope that vaccines might provide protection to the ones who are still alive from being severely affected by second, third, or any consecutive waves of COVID-19.
For Indians life is about jumping through hoops, so how could this be any easier!
The hope of any protection offered by Vaccines is deterred by the availability of vaccines which is a result of the Central govt faulty vaccination plan from procurement of vaccines to its distribution.
On Wednesday, Supreme Court also lambasted the centre on its vaccination policy that can best be described as arbitrary and irrational. The SC bench has also demanded answers on vaccine procurement and a roadmap of vaccinating the whole country by Dec 2021.
When the Indian govt announced its vaccination plan which was free for those above the age of 45 it was only procuring vaccines from Serum Institute and COVAXIN was still not even introduced. Later on, when the second wave hit the country, the govt expanded the vaccination drive to include everyone who was 18 or above but it was not free and it put the responsibility for procurement of vaccines on the States.
Supreme Court came down heavily on the central govt for such arbitrary and irrational vaccination policy that basically left the states and citizens to fend for themselves. Despite the cap on the vaccine cost of Rs 250, the private hospitals are charging between 900-1250 for one dose of vaccine.
The bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao, and S Ravindra Bhat in the order in the suo moto matter of COVID19 management observed that –
“We find that the Liberalized Vaccination Policy may not be able to yield the desired results of spurring competitive prices and higher quantities.”
The court took note of the digital divide between rural and urban populations, less allotment of vaccines at centers for this category, and not prioritizing those with liabilities and co-morbidities.
The Supreme Court bench came up with a list of questions and demanded detailed answers for the following questions to the bench-
- The centre has announced an allotment of 35,000 crores for the procurement of vaccines. The Court asked the center why it can’t be used to buy vaccines for this 18-45yrs category. It has also demanded the purchase history of Covaxin, Covishield, and Sputnik V vaccines to date.
- The Court has asked the Center to provide data on the percentage of the vaccinated population with one or both doses from the eligible population in rural and urban areas.
- The government must also provide data about the number of crematorium workers who were vaccinated in Phase 1.
- The Centre is required to put forth a roadmap for the vaccination process by providing data regarding the availability of vaccines until December 31, 2021, and the plan of action to address the needs of children who might be affected by the third wave of the pandemic.
The Court has directed the Centre to “undertake a fresh review of its vaccination policy addressing the concerns raised” and submit an additional affidavit in two weeks.
During this hearing which took place on May 31, the Bench had also asked the Central government to be aware of the ground realities and demanded rationale for its vaccination policy for the 18-45 age group.