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Bombay HC asks Maharashtra to decide, act on door-to-door Covid vaccination immediately

The Bombay High Court in its order dated June 11, 2021, had recorded the submissions made by Counsel appearing on behalf of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, that by a letter dated June 10, 2021, the Municipal Commissioner had informed the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, of the MCGM’s willingness to conduct door to door Vaccination and if permitted by the Government of India, such course of action could be commenced.

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The Bombay High Court has asked the Maharashtra Government to take an appropriate decision on door-to-door vaccination of the elderly and disabled in the state by June 22, and directed that if the decision is taken to allowing it, then it should be implemented immediately.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni noted that there is no categorical prohibition imposed by the Central Government for states to undertake a door-to-door vaccination programme for the elderly and disabled citizens. The Court made this observation after it inquired from the counsel appearing for the Government of India, as to whether the UOI has in any manner prohibited Kerala, Jammu and Kashmir, and others who have commenced door-to-door vaccination to stop the same. The Counsel for the UOI replied that the Central Government has merely issued a guideline/advisory.

The Bombay High Court in its order dated June 11, 2021, had recorded the submissions made by Counsel appearing on behalf of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), that by a letter dated June 10, 2021, the Municipal Commissioner had informed the Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, of the MCGM’s willingness to conduct door-to-door vaccination and if permitted by the Government of India, such course of action could be commenced.

The Court was informed by the counsel appearing for the UOI that Dr Manohar Agnani, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India has replied to the said letter of the MCGM interalia informing the Municipal Commissioner, that as per Covid-19 vaccination guidelines, vaccination is provided at identified Government and Private vaccination centers. Such letter records that the State / UTs have been repeatedly advised to operationalize ‘Near to Home COVID Vaccination Centres’ (NHCVCs) in order to bring vaccination services closer to the community for elderly and differently-abled persons and to operationalize such units in Community Centres, Resident Welfare Association centers/offices, housing societies, colonies, panchayat Ghar/offices, school and college buildings, old age homes, etc.
 
The letter also records that the issue of the door-to-door vaccination for the disabled and elderly were deliberated by technical experts in the meeting of ‘National Experts Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19’ (NEGVAC), which has advised that vaccination cannot be given at the doorstep due to various issues and risks associated with maintenance of proper cold chain, potential contamination of vaccine, AEFI’s management, vaccine wastage, the potential of COVID-19 protocols being compromised, etc. In view of such considerations, the MCGM was advised to follow the guidelines and advisories as per the National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.
 
Learned Counsel Appearing for the Central Government Anil Singh submitted that the MCGM may follow such advice and wait for some time for any further guidelines/advisories to be issued.
 
The Central Government in its affidavit recorded the following reasons for the nonexistence of door-to-door policy for Covid-19 vaccination;
 
“6.1 In case of any Adverse Event Following Immunization (“AEFI” for short), case management may not be proper and there will be a delay in reaching a health facility.
 
6.2 Challenges in maintaining protocol of observation of beneficiary for 30 minutes after vaccination.

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6.3 The vaccine will be placed in and out of the Vaccine Carrier for each vaccination thereby increasing chances of contamination and exposure beyond a recommended temperature which could affect vaccine efficacy and cause Adverse Events Following Immunization which will be detrimental to vaccine confidence and program performance.
 
6.4 high vaccine wastage due to increased time going from door to door taking more time for reaching out to each beneficiary.
 
6.5 Following protocols for Physical Distancing and Infection prevention and Control might not be possible during door-to-door campaigns.
 
The plea was filed by Dhruti Kapadia, a practicing advocate, seeking orders on the respondents to introduce door-to-door vaccination especially for elderly and disabled citizens as well as simplifying the procedure for enlistment for such vaccination.

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