The Bombay High Court on Wednesday expressed its disappointment at the Centre for refusing to start door-to-door Covid vaccinations for senior citizens, saying that many lives would have been saved if only authorities had conducted the exercise, PTI reported.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni once again asked the Union government to explain why it would not start door-to-door inoculation campaigns when the lives of the country’s citizens were at stake.
The court was hearing a plea filed by two lawyers seeking mobile vaccination facilities for senior citizens above 75, along with disabled persons and those who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound.
On April 22, the Centre had informed the court that it was not possible to conduct door-to-door vaccinations in the country, as it was not “feasible” on several counts. This includes vaccine wastage, inability to provide timely medical care in case of an adverse reaction, challenges in maintaining necessary protocol of 30-minute observation post vaccination, and other logistical problems, the government said, according to Live Law.
The High Court, however, had criticised the Centre’s arguments, observing that if a policy denies an elderly person home vaccination because of their delicate medical condition, it must be viewed as “arbitrary and unreasonable”. The division bench had said the government cannot just “leave old people to die” and implored the Centre to reconsider its position.
When the hearing resumed on Wednesday, the court noted that it had been three weeks but the Centre was yet to inform the bench of its decision. “You said there would be a re-look, where is the re-look?” the bench said, according to Live Law.“The government should have taken a decision one way or the other.”
The judges noted that many foreign countries had already started door-to-door vaccination facilities. “In India, we do many things late and things travel to our country very slowly,” Justice Kulkarni said. “Why not start this pro-actively when the lives of senior citizens are concerned?”
He added: “Speaking off the cuff, if we had a door-to-door vaccination programme sometime back, then so many of our senior citizens, including prominent members of society from various walks of life, who have lost their lives to Covid-19, could have been saved.”
The court spoke of images of senior citizens and many wheelchair-bound persons waiting outside vaccination centres in long queues. “This was very heart-rending and not a good sight,” the judges said. “They must be already suffering from so many ailments and now they face the risk of being infected with Covid-19.”
It directed the Union government to file an affidavit by May 19, when it would hear the matter further.
‘Availability of vaccines also a problem’
During the proceedings, the High Court also asked Mumbai’s civic body to submit an affidavit stating the steps taken by authorities to widen the vaccination drive in the city.
The bench noted that senior judges of the High Court had held a meeting with Brihanmumbai Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Chahal on Tuesday where he said the civic body was planning to start ward-wise vaccination camps from next week, which would have the capacity to inoculate 70,000 people per day.
“If such camps are starting, then maybe senior citizens and people who cannot step out of their homes can be identified and the staff can go to their homes and vaccinate them,” Chief Justice Datta suggested.
At the same time, the court said that the availability of vaccines was also a problem, according to PTI.
Covid care for children
Besides, the bench also asked the Maharashtra government to inform the court about the steps it was taking to check the spread of Covid among children. The judges asked the state to file a reply on the matter by May 19, reported PTI.
“As experts had cautioned the nation to brace for the third wave of the pandemic, in which children might be most vulnerable, the authorities must take pre-emptive steps and strengthen health infrastructure in the state,” the court said.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s counsel, senior advocate Anil Sakhre told the High Court that till April, 10,000 children under the age of 10 had contracted the virus and 17 had died of the infection. At least 33 children between the age of 10 and 18 had died in the city, Sakhre said
The High Court told the advocate that the state must consult experts, paediatricians and other stakeholders to strengthen the healthcare infrastructure for children and their caregivers. “Make separate arrangements for their mothers and caregivers too,” it added. “File a reply on what is being done.”
Additionally, the court also sought to know from the civic body the measures it plans to take for the vaccination of homeless people, beggars and those living on the streets. “They are also a significant population and are spreaders of the coronavirus,” it said, according to PTI.