NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday made scathing remarks on Centre's vaccination policy against COVID-19, terming the replacement of free vaccination in the first two phases with paid vaccination for persons between 18-44 years as prima facie as "arbitrary and irrational".
In a 32-page ruling, a bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat said: "Due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the state/UT governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational."
The court noted that persons between 18-44 years of age have not only been infected by COVID-19 but have also suffered from severe effects of the infection, including prolonged hospitalisation and, in unfortunate cases, death. "Due to the changing nature of the pandemic, we are now faced with a situation where the 18-44 age group also needs to be vaccinated, although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis," it said. Healthcare workers (HCWs), frontline workers (FLWs) and persons above the age of 45 years, were prioritised in Phases 1 and 2 for obtaining COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccination policy was substantially changed for persons between 18-44 years of age.
The liberalised vaccination policy requires some of these persons to pay for the vaccines, limited vaccines were made available for this category with the state/UT governments/private hospitals, and an additional requirement of mandatory digital registration through CoWIN. (IANS)