SC to Hear PIL Seeking COVID-19 Vaccines for All Above 18 Years

To deprive persons below 45, who may be suffering from comorbidities, from getting the shot amounts to violation of Article 21 and Article 18, advocate Rashmi Singh has said in her petition.

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench will consider a public interest litigation seeking COVID-19 vaccination for all above the age of 18 in India as an effort to tackle the surge in numbers.

Advocate Rashmi Singh has filed the petition seeking a relaxation of the rule that makes vaccination only available to those above 45 years, along with frontline workers.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R. Subhash Reddy will hear the petition.

India has reported the highest number of deaths on a single day due to COVID-19 since its peak on September 19 last year – of 1,184 people. The total number of new cases also remained above the 2-lakh mark for the second consecutive day on April 15, with 2.17 lakh, taking India’s total number of active cases past 1.5 million.

“It is submitted that if a larger number of the young and working population is vaccinated, the intensity of the cases would be much lower as compared to the present-day situation and the spread of the COVID-19 virus would be contained to a huge extent,” the petition says.

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To deprive persons below 45 suffering from comorbidities from getting the shot “amounts to violation of the right to life as guaranteed under Article 21” of the constitution, the petitioner holds. Article 14, which guarantees right to equality is also violated through this decision, the petition says.

India’s vaccination drive began on January 16, 2021. Initially it was limited to healthcare workers and those on the frontline. On March 1, it was expanded to people over 60 and those between 45 and 59, with comorbidities. The comorbidities clause was removed from the last age group on April 1.

The petition also notes that experts, including the Indian Medical Association, have expressed opinions on the necessity of this.

It quotes epidemiologist Dr Bhramar Mukherjee as having said that India should have been more aggressive in its vaccination drive when the “curve was in its valley.”

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The petition also says that marginalised sections, including daily wage workers, form a large part of the population of the country deprived of vaccines currently.

However, India’s vaccine situation has also met with challenges as the case count has risen. After gifting and selling tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad, India suddenly finds itself short of shots, a Reuters report has noted.

The Drug Controller General of India had initially only approved AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharati Biotech’s Covaxin.

Faced with a shortage in several states, India has decided it will fast-track emergency approvals for foreign-produced COVID-19 vaccines that have been granted emergency authorisation in other countries.

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was approved for emergency use in India earlier on April 12, after its bridging trials in India.