India To Get Completely Vaccinated By 2021: Centre To Supreme Court
The centre was confirming what two union ministers, including Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, have said this past fortnight
The entire population of India is expected to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of this year, the centre told the Supreme Court Monday morning, as it faced several uncomfortable questions about the national vaccination policy and decision to allow dual-pricing of vaccines.
The top court – inquiring into a vaccination policy criticized for differential pricing, shortage of doses, and a slow rollout – asked the centre why it was providing states with 100 per cent of doses required for the 45+ age group, but only 50 per cent of those needed for the 18-44 demographic.
“For entire population above 45, centre is procuring (vaccines) but for 18-44 there is bifurcation of procurement – 50 per cent available to states by manufacturers and price is fixed by the centre, and rest to be given to private hospitals. What is the (actual) basis for this?” the court asked.
“Your rationale was high mortality in 45+ group (but) in the second wave this group is not seriously affected… it is 18-44. If purpose is to procure vaccines, why should the centre procure only for over 45?” a three-member bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao and S Ravindra Bhat asked.
The court also grilled the central government over the “digital divide”, pointing out that requiring people to register on the CoWIN digital platform before getting the shot will hamper vaccination efforts in rural areas, where access to the internet is unreliable.
“Everyone has to register on CoWIN (but) the digital divide… Is it realistically possible to expect (people) from rural areas to register on COWIN?” the court asked.
To the response: “Villagers can go to computer centres and register… and they will be vaccinated”, the court repeated its question: “Is this really practical?” and also pointed out that migrant workers travelling from one state to another were unlikely to have even that level of access.