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  • Writer's pictureNiloy Subir Ghosh

It is clear you cannot vaccinate all the people:" Delhi High Court on Covaxin second dose shortage

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

The Delhi High Court on Friday while taking strong views in the case of Kushal Kumar & Ors. V. Govt of NCT Delhi , Ashish Virmani vs GNCTD, and Rajeev Parashar vs GNCTD urged the Central and Delhi government authorities to expeditiously address the shortage in COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin for administering second dose of the vaccine .

The petitioners Advocate Kushal Kumar & Shashwat Tripathi represented by Senior Lawyer Ashish Mohan among other petitioners in the present case ; Had approached the court seeking direction to the concerned authorities to urgently provide second dose of Covaxin vaccine to them as their allotted time period for the second dose is about to end.

The matter was heard by bench consisting of Justice Palli highlighting the shortage of vaccines that arose in the capital during the administration of the second dose of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin to the 18-44 age group. Earlier this week the court had issued notice and sought responses from the Central Government and the Delhi Government when they would be able to administer the second dose to those who had received the first dose.

Advocate Anuj Aggarwal, appearing on behalf of the Delhi government, told the Court that Bharat Biotech had assured them a supply of 5 lakh doses for May 2021 and 20 lakh doses for June 2021. In the same letter, Bharat Biotech had also promised the Delhi government an additional 25 lakh doses for the month of July. Despite this written confirmation, they ended up giving only 1.5 lakh this month, out of the promised 5 lakh doses. He further submitted that the Centre had issued directions to the State to not reserve Covaxin stocks for second dose and to administer first dose to as many people as possible instead. Despite such direction , the Delhi government planned to administer up to 90,000 doses of the vaccine between June and July with the remaining stocks, Aggarwal told the Court.

The Court asked the Delhi government if it was trying to put the blame on the Centre. Aggarwal denied this accusation, and told the Court that these were the directives issues to them, so they were bound by it. He then placed on record a letter sent to them by Bharat Biotech on May 11, that said, "We sincerely regret not being able to make additional supply of the vaccine."

The Court enquired why the supply hadn't come if they had placed the order. Aggarwal replied that the Delhi government could not do it on their whims and fancies and that they were unaware of this picture earlier, as Bharat Biotech had assured them they would provide the supply. He told the Court that suppliers should be called upon and asked to provide doses of the vaccine. Opposing the submission put forth Advocate Deepak Parashar, one of the petitioners in the present case pointed out that the Delhi government had been aware of Bharat Biotech's inability to supply Covaxin since May 11, 2021. Yet, they only stopped administering the doses on May 24, 2021.

At this point, Senior Lawyer Ashish Mohan appearing for Advocate Kushal Kumar stated that that the present discussion should aim to rectify the situation rather than getting into a blame game. He submitted before the Court,

"Delhi government is right in asking the government centres to not administer the first dose anymore. If this continues, we will get into a cycle of each person having to wait 3-4 weeks to get their second shot and the matter will persist before the Court. However, the Delhi government can issue a direction rather than just an advisory to all private hospitals to put the administration of the first dose on hold."

Mohan maintained that the Delhi government had the authority to do so under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005. Justice Palli also agreed that this would solve a substantial part of the problem. He Further submitted that if the second dose was not given timely then more doses would be required which in turn would lead to wastage of vaccines

Finally, the High Court called upon counsel for the Central government to respond to the allegation that the Centre was issuing directives to the States to administer first doses, instead of reserving stocks of second doses of the vaccine. Justice Palli added that the Centre in doing so had acted without considering the implications and now people were suffering because of this.

The Court remarked "Both the Centre and the State should do something about it. Share copies of certain communication on record. Both the counsels for the Delhi Government and the Central Government are to obtain instructions, especially in the view of the admitted position that 1.5 Lakh first doses were administered between May 1-24, 2021, to the ages 18-44. Therefore there was an urgent requirement that the beneficiaries are given their second dose of Covaxin,"

Observing the urgency of the matter the court listed the next hearing of the matter on Monday, 7th June

Kushal Kumar v Government of NCT of Delh
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