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Supreme Court asks Centre to consider DCPCR views on Covid jab for lactating mothers and pregnant women

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to take a considered view of the petitioner’s concerns on Covid-19 vaccination for pregnant women and lactating mothers while disposing it.

The bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said they could highlight the concerns but were not inclined to give a direction to the Government since they were not domain experts.

The petition filed by the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) had stated that although the Central Government had put out guidelines, the petitioner wanted some concerns addressed by the Centre to take into account for pregnant women and lactating mothers vis-a-vis Covid vaccination.

The bench said in its order: “The specific reliefs which have been sought for the need to provide effective access to vaccination to pregnant women and lactating mothers. These reliefs can broadly be summarised as follows:

1) Categorization of these group of women as high risk of vulnerability to give priority;

2) Their inclusion in vaccine drive setting up of a task force to operationalise their tracking of post-vaccine health effects;

3) Developing educational material and SOPs for women belonging to this group to understand the effect of vaccine and ensure informed consent is taken;

4) Setting up separate vaccine centre to protect this class from any untoward infection;

5) Engaging Asha and Anganwadi workers for vaccination for particularly women belonging to lower socio-economic background; and

6) Providing a method to classify women in CoWin app so as to given priority in vaccination slot.

The bench noted that the Centre’s preliminary affidavit dated October 1, 2021 had detailed steps on the constitution of national technical advisory group on immunisation and for vaccine administration, steps taken for supporting vaccination of pregnant and lactating women, to find the adverse effects of vaccination and support provided through vaccination centre.

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During the hearing today, DCPCR counsel advocate Vrinda Grover suggested three measures:

They can declare at the time of registering on Cowin app by tweaking the software that she is a pregnant woman or a lactating mother. So that she gets mandatory counselling when she turns up for the vaccination.

Targeted tracking should be done to counter the adverse effects post-vaccination. Vaccine maybe made available, in which if made available, case to case counselling will not be available.

As and when data is available, the publication of that data will give greater confidence over the adverse effects so that informed decisions can be taken by women.

ASG Aishwarya Bhati, who appeared for the Centre, said the Cowin platform has taken a backseat due to increase in walk-in registration. People at the centre take the data of the people and feed it into the Cowin app.

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There is a field for checking the mark against lactating mothers or pregnant women before vaccination, she said.

The ASG reasoned that adding new requirements on information may dissuade people from vaccination.

As regards tracking, Bhati said a comprehensive exercise is carried out to track all adverse effects, especially for pregnant women and lactating mothers. Other stake holders and experts have been involved in this exercise.

On data publication, the ASG said there is no time limit for reporting adverse events and they can be reported irrespective of the time elapsed since vaccination.

Data can be put out in the public only after its analysis by experts since it could lead to more misgivings, she said.

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