The Bombay High Court on Monday gave the Maharashtra government time till June 22 to decide on starting door-to-door Covid-19 vaccination for citizens above 75 years of age and those who are bedridden, PTI reported.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation filed by lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the central and state governments, along with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, to start door-to-door vaccination.
During the hearing on Monday, Kapadia highlighted a report in the Hindustan Times about Maharashtra Health Minister Rajesh Tope saying that the government was working on allowing home inoculation for those who cannot visit vaccination centres. Kerala, Odisha and Jharkhand have also been conducting such vaccination drives.
However, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the Centre, said door-to-door vaccination was not a part of the national inoculation policy at present, Bar and Bench reported.
Singh read out the Union health ministry’s response to the Mumbai civic body seeking permission for door-to-door vaccination.
“The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 has advised that vaccination cannot be given at doorstep due to various issues and risks associated with maintenance of proper cold chains, potential contamination of vaccines, AEFIs [Adverse event following immunisation] management, vaccine wastage, potential of Covid-19 protocols etc,” the letter dated June 11 said.
In response, the court said: “Penultimate paragraph of your reply says that the policy is a mere advisory. So there is no embargo on the state to conduct door to door vaccination if they can?”
The bench asked Singh if the Centre had prohibited the states from vaccinating people at home. Singh said that wasn’t done.
The court asked senior advocate Anil Sakhare, appearing for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, if the civic body will follow Maharashtra or the Centre’s guidelines. The lawyer said Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation will follow state guidelines.
The bench then directed Maharashtra government lawyer Geeta Shastri to come up with door-to-door vaccination guidelines.
“We accordingly adjourn the proceedings to June 22 to enable the state government to take an appropriate decision on the issue of door-to-door vaccination for the elderly and disabled,” the bench said, according to PTI. “In the event a decision is taken permitting door-to-door vaccination prior to the adjourned date of hearing, all concerned shall be free to implement the same immediately.”
The Centre has been facing pressure to speed up its inoculation drive. India on Monday reported 70,421 new coronavirus cases, taking its overall tally to 2,95,10,410 since the pandemic broke out in January 2020. The toll rose by 3,921 to 3,74,305. More than 25 crore vaccine doses have been administered in the country since January 16.
On June 8, the Centre had informed the Bombay High Court that near-to-door coronavirus vaccination would be a more feasible option than door-to-door inoculation. A meeting of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration was held on May 25 after the court directed the Centre to examine if door-to-door vaccination was possible.