Mumbai: Observing that there was no regularity in allocation of vaccine doses by the Union government, the Bombay high court has asked it to file an affidavit explaining the entire process with timeline – right from placing an order with the manufacturers to it reaching vaccination centres.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni, on Saturday, also asked the state government to file an affidavit explaining the process it follows for vaccine allocation and also why it cannot intimate the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in advance about the number of doses being allocated to it (BMC).
The HC was hearing a public interest litigation, filed by Yogeeta Vanzara through advocate Rajesh Vanzara, seeking the court's intervention in the issues concerning the booking of vaccination slots on the CoWin vaccination portal. The BMC should open the booking slots for a week but are doing it on a daily basis.
Jamsheed Master, Vanzara’s counsel, pointed out to the court that according to government’s data, merely 6 per cent of Mumbai’s population is fully vaccinated. “Recently court had asked, after Wimbledon tournament, when will be able to reach as stage where face masks were not required? At this rate, we will achieve it after 3.5-4 years,” said Master.
The HC has asked the union government to explain the manner in which orders are placed with the manufacturers and the timeline in which the vaccine doses are delivered by them. Also, the Union government has to explain the manner in which it makes the vaccine doses available to the various states.
The HC has also asked an officer from the Maharashtra State Family Welfare Bureau – which is responsible for allocating doses across the state – to file an affidavit when it receives communication from the Union government and why it cannot inform the BMC in advance about the exact number of vaccine doses allocated.
An affidavit was filed by the state government – Dr Sadhana Tayade, director in the office of the Commissioner of Health Service, Mumbai, stating that it was “not convenient to open weekly slots due to irregular supply of vaccines.” It said that the government of India is not regular in terms of date and time and number of vaccines.
Additional government pleader Geeta Shastri informed the court that as soon as they receive communication from the Union government, they intimate the BMC and other 8 zones regarding the vaccine availability. “The BMC then collects doses directly from Serum Institute of India (SII) storage facility,” added Shastri.
Anil Sakhare, counsel for the BMC, said that they are not intimated about the number of doses that will be provided by the SII in advance. “After we get the vials to our storage facility in Mumbai, we come to know of the number of vials given to us, only after that we can distribute it to vaccination centres,” added Sakhare.
When questioned by the court Shastri said that after receiving communication from the Union government, they first inform all 8 zones and BMC to come and collect the vaccines and after that, they allocate the number of doses to respective zones and BMC. “This is to save time in picking up the vaccines,” added Shastri.
However, additional solicitor general Anil Singh, representing the Union government said that it informs all the state governments 15-30 days in advance about the number of doses being allocated to them.
The HC has asked the union government and state government to file affidavits by August 2.
Here's what BMC said
BMC informed the HC that its global tender has failed. “Our attempts to acquire vaccines directly from foreign vaccine manufacturers failed. They (foreign vaccine manufacturers) told us that they will deal only with the Central government and not with state governments,” said Sakhare.
BMC has also said that the slots at all vaccination centres will open at 5.30 pm. “We will issue a circular announcing the fixed time slots and publicise it through media,” added Sakhare.