A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Centre's decision on COVID-19 vaccination only to “prioritized age groups” above 45 years and sought doses for all citizens.
The plea filed by political activist and columnist Tehseen Poonawalla said there has been a steep increase in daily COVID-19 cases in the country, with 1.31 lakh new cases as of April 9.
This has necessitated an ever-increasing need to allow vaccination for COVID-19 to all age groups and especially to all persons with co-morbidities such as respiratory illnesses and terminal illness, who, despite being vulnerable to the virus, have not been given the option to be protected by the vaccine.
"This arbitrary bar on the age-groups coupled with the sudden rise in the number of infections due to COVID-19 disease...Necessitates immediate steps to be taken to ensure that vaccination is not only available to persons aged above 45 years but to all such persons, even below the age of 45-years, who are employed in work that requires them to go outside every day as well as all persons with any of the co-morbid conditions as vulnerable groups," the plea said.
"The bar on availability of approved vaccines to persons below the age of 45 years, despite having co-morbid conditions, is arbitrary, unreasonable and ultra vires Article 21, which guarantees a right to life, not being a mere animal existence but including within it the right to dignity and appropriate healthcare as well as Article 14, which envisages a right to equality to all the citizens," it said.
The petition has sought directions to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to make effective changes in its policy to ensure vaccination for COVID-19 to all citizens of the country.
The Drugs Controller General of India had approved the use of two vaccines for immunization -- Serum Institute of India's (SII) Covishield and Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.
In a boost to India's vaccine drive, the Centre had eased the age limit on vaccination, allowing all those above 45 years in age to get the shots from April 1.
The vaccination phases in India have so far covered all people above the age of 60, those above 45 with comorbidities, medical professionals and frontline workers.