Digital divide not a constraint as walk-in, free vaccination allowed: Centre to SC

New Delhi

The Centre on Saturday told the Supreme Court that digital divide is no more a constraint as walk-in Covid vaccination has been permitted and a poor person and a multi-millionaire in the 18 years and above age group are equally entitled to get vaccine free of cost.

Till June 25, over 31 crore doses have been administered in the country to curb the pandemic, the government said while responding to a slew of questions raised by the apex court in its May 31 order during hearing of a suo motu case related to Covid management. In a 375-page affidavit filed in the apex court, Union health ministry said as per the projected mid-year population for 2020, the population of the country aged 18 years and above is approximately 93-94 crore and as such, administering two doses to these beneficiaries would require an estimated 186 to 188 crore doses. "Out of this requirement, 51.6 crore doses will be made available for administration by July 31, 2021, leaving requirement of about 135 crore vaccine doses for complete vaccination to the eligible population," it said.

Giving the breakup for vaccines' quantity that may be receivable from all sources, the Centre said 135 crore doses will be procured: Covishield (50 cr), Covaxin (40 cr), Bio E Subunit vaccine (30 cr), Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine (5 cr) and Sputnik V (10 cr). It said procurement of Bio E Subunit vaccine and Zydus Cadila DNA vaccine will be subject to approval which will come in the near future.

A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud had slammed the Centre's Covid vaccination policy, describing as "prima facie arbitrary and irrational" allowing states and private hospitals to charge those in the 18-44 age group while jabs were offered free for groups in the first two phases, and ordered its review.

Seeking to scrutinise the vaccination policy in detail, the top court had also asked the Centre to provide information including as to how Rs 35,000 crore earmarked for vaccines has been spent so far, and to place on record all relevant documents and file notings reflecting its thinking culminating in the policy.

Bringing the revised "Covid-19 Vaccine Operational Guidelines" on record, the Centre's reply affidavit said, "Under the revised guidelines, government of India will procure vaccine and supply free of cost to the states and union territories (UTs) to vaccinate all persons above 18 years of age from 21.06.2021 and this will ensure that 18-44 years persons will also receive free vaccine from government Covid vaccination centres."

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