Rethink policy on door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination: Bombay High Court to Centre
Mumbai, May 20: The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it was disheartened and disappointed with the Centre's insensitivity and with the Mumbai civic body for not starting door-to-door COVID-19 vaccination for senior citizens and specially-abled, bed-ridden and wheelchair-bound people.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni reiterated that the Centre needs to rethink its policy that says door-to-door inoculation drive was not possible due to various reasons, including wastage of vaccines and probability of adverse reaction to the vaccine.
The HC directed chairman of the 'National Expert Group for Vaccine Administration of COVID-19' (NEGVAC) set up by the Centre to consider the issue of introducing door-to-door drive and posted the matter for further hearing on June 2.
"If the NEGVAC decides favourably to start the door- to-door drive, then the same shall be implemented without waiting for the court's order," the bench said.
"We are very much disheartened with the central government. Central government officials really disappointed us. Your officials are completely insensitive. Instead of making elderly people rush to the (vaccination) centres, you (government) must reach out to them," the court said.
The bench noted that the Centre's expert committee was working on surmises by saying door-to-door vaccination was not possible at present, because of the probability that people might develop an adverse reaction to the vaccine.
"Is there any scientific data which shows that because of a particular vaccine a person has developed complications? Where is the data that even a single person has died after taking the vaccine? The expert committee should opine one way or the other. There cannot be any ifs and buts," the HC said.
The court noted that in the United Kingdom, the same Covishield vaccine is being used and door-to-door vaccination drive has been undertaken there. The court also lashed out at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for filing an affidavit saying it would start door-to-door vaccination only after the central government issues guidelines for the same.
"We are very disappointed with this stand. We are aghast to know that the BMC has succumbed to pressure," Chief Justice Datta said. The bench said instead of being proactive on the issue, the Centre is now not permitting other authorities at the state and civic level to start door-to-door vaccination.
The court further said the BMC was so active on social media about the good work it was doing for citizens, but it was not willing to start the door-to-door vaccination drive.
"You (BMC) cannot discriminate like this," it said. The BMC in its affidavit said the Centre is yet to come up with a policy for door-to-door vaccination and till date, the corporation has followed all guidelines laid down by both the Union and Maharashtra governments.
"As and when the guidelines for door-to-door vaccination are issued by the central government, the same will be implemented by the corporation," the affidavit said. It said the BMC is trying its best to procure sufficient stock of vaccines from all possible sources to ramp up the inoculation drive in Mumbai.
On Wednesday, the bench said if the BMC was willing to introduce door-to-door vaccination drive for senior citizens, specially-abled persons and those who are bed-ridden or wheelchair-bound, then the court would grant permission despite no nod from the Centre.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocates Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari, seeking a direction to the government to start door-to-door inoculation programme for senior citizens above the age of 75 and others who are unable to go to the vaccination centres.