Reporting on the proceedings at the Karnataka High Court’s latest hearing on Tuesday on its supervision of the COVID response management in the state, MONICA DHANRAJ writes about the High Court analyzing the vaccination data from the state thus far to note, with great alarm, that the state’s current vaccine stocks are not enough to even fully vaccinate most of those people who have already received one dose of the vaccine by giving them the second dose on time.
OTING the dire shortage of vaccines in the state, a division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar of the Karnataka High Court asked the counsel for the Union of India to explain how they intended to provide vaccination to 16,83,000 citizens who have completed more than 6 weeks since their first dose when the stock available with the state government was only 9,37,000 doses.
Referring to their order on the 6th May 2021, the bench asked the state, “The last order notes that 65 lakh citizens want second dose and your stocks is 7,75,000 so what is the written submission? Let us see your written submission”
On the 6th of May, the bench had asked the state government to submit a requisition with the union government for the supply of requisite doses of vaccine.
Asking the Union Government if it has taken a decision on the requisition, the bench asked the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India Nargund M.B., appearing for the union government, “Paragraph 9 of the last order we had directed (state government) to submit a requisition, whether the central government has taken a decision on the requisition?
When Nargund told the bench, “Regarding the request of the state government, we’ll ask the concerned department and whenever it is received, immediately we are ready to supply”, Chief Justice Oka replied “Just see the situation…on 6th May 2021, we have noted in the order that 65 lakh citizens need second dose and 7,75,000 doses are(were) available. The situation is no different today…only 9, 37,000 doses are available. Forget about giving the vaccine to the age group of 18 to 44, they (the state government of Karnataka) can’t even supply the vaccine to those who need their second dose; this is the situation today. Have you taken any decision?”
The ASG’s submitted that the union government had taken the decision to have a liberalized vaccination strategy implemented from the 1st of May, wherein for the age group of 45 and above, the vaccine would be taken care of by the Union Government. He added that the supplies were in the pipeline and would reach the state.
In response, the bench asked, “We are talking about people above 45 and above 59; how will the state provide them the second dose of vaccination, please tell us that.”
The counsel for one of the petitioners, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Clifton D’Rozario, drew the bench’s attention to the state’s submission on vaccination data, telling the bench, “It’s a very disturbing situation, my lords. The second dose is due for a large number of people.”
For Covishield, which the Union Health Ministry has recommended be taken in two doses with a gap of 4-6 weeks, the bench noted that more than ten lakh people have completed six weeks since their first dose; 5.3 lakh people have completed seven weeks, and 1.6 lakh have completed eight weeks since their first dose. Similarly, for Covaxin, for which the present guidelines direct the second dose be taken within 28 days of the first dose, the bench noted, with concern, that 3.97 lakh people have completed four weeks since their first does, 3.1 lakh have completed five weeks, and 2.17 lakh have completed six weeks.
Addressing the Advocate-General of Karnataka, Prabhuling K. Navadgi , the bench said, “Almost 16 to 17 lakh people immediately need the second dose and your availability is only 9 lakh; what are you going to do now, please tell us?”
Navadgi notified the bench that the Karnataka government has taken the decision to give all the available doses to those who require the second dose.
“We’re still very short…woefully short”, the Chief Justice responded.
Noting that there has not been any compliance reported by the union government of the bench’s order dated 6th May, 2021, asking the union government to urgently take up the state government’s request for vaccines, the bench extended the time granted to the union government till 13th May, 2021 for compliance with its directions to take action on the state’s request for vaccines.
(Monica Dhanraj is a lawyer, and a member of the staff at The Leaflet. The views expressed are personal.)