New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed the Centre's vaccination policy as "arbitrary and irrational", as it does not provide free vaccination for those in the age group of 18 to 44 years.
The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao, and S Ravindra Bhat was hearing a suo motu case filed by the highest court to address issues surrounding the administration of Covid-19 in the country.
While ruling, the bench ordered the Centre to provide detailed information on all COVID-19 vaccines purchased by the government to date, including Covaxin, Covishield, and Sputnik V.
The court added that the detailed information should include the dates of all Central government procurement orders for all three vaccinations, the number of vaccines ordered as of each date and the expected date of supply.
The apex court has also asked the Centre to share its plan on how and when the government will vaccinate the remaining population in phases 1, 2, and 3. Further, the Court also sought information on the steps being taken by the Central government to ensure drug availability for mucormycosis.
The Supreme Court also observed that currently people in the age group 18-45 are not just getting infected, but suffering from severe effects of the
infection, including hospitalisation and death. The court highlighted the changing nature of the pandemic and said it has created a situation where this younger age bracket also needs to be vaccinated. However, it added that priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis.
"Hence, 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 order read.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Monday had grilled the Centre over its vaccine policy and emphasised that the policy to fight back the deadly virus should be aligned with the ground situation in the country.
A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, L. Nageswara Rao and S. Ravindra Bhat told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, "You must smell the coffee and see what is happening across the country", and stressed that Centre's vaccination policy should not be carved in stone, rather it should evolve based on the ground situation.