'Arbitrary and irrational': Supreme Court on Centre's policy of paid vaccination for 18-44 age group

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, June 02, 2021, 04:53 PM IST
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A health worker inoculates a youth with a dose of the Covishield vaccine against the Covid-19 coronavirus during a vaccination drive at a civil hospital in Jind, in the northern state of Haryana on June 1, 2021. | (Photo by AFP)

The Supreme Court today slammed the Centre's policy of paid vaccination for 18-44 age group and termed it 'arbitrary and irrational'. As per a NDTV report, the apex court called the issue of vaccination "absolutely crucial" and said "Reports indicate that persons between 18-44 years of age have not only been infected by COVID-19, but have also suffered from severe effects of the infection, including prolonged hospitalisation and, in unfortunate cases, death. Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis."

The order further reads, "Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational,"

The Supreme Court noted that the Union of India's (UoI) stated position in its affidavit of May 09 is that every state/UT shall provide vaccination free of cost to its population. "It is important that individual State/UT govt confirm/deny this position before this court," it added.

Further it stated that if the stateshave decided to vaccinate their population for free, it's important that this policy is annexed to their affidavit so that population within their territories can be assured of their right to be vaccinated for free at a state vaccination center.

The apex court has directed the state/UT governments to file an affidavit within 2 weeks, where they shall clarify their position and put on record their individual policies, while fixing the matter for further hearing till June 30, it also directed UoI to file its affidavit within 2 weeks.

On May 31, the Supreme Court gave a tongue lashing to the Centre on its Covid vaccination policy, flagging "various flaws" in the drive, which it faulted for different streams of pricing, shortage of doses and lack of access in rural areas, and gave it two weeks to respond.

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