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Covid vaccination: PIL in Supreme Court seeks free jabs for everyone in India

According to the PIL, the Right to life includes the right to health under Article 21 of the Constitution as held by this Hon’ble Court in a catena of decisions, at this juncture, every person in India has the invaluable right to get the vaccination at free of cost.

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A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court on Monday seeking directions to the Union of India to formulate a uniform pan-India Covid-19 vaccination policy for providing it free of cost to every person within India and to constitute an independent body under the Apex Court’s direct supervision to ensure free vaccination across all the states and union territories.

The PIL has been filed by the Social Democratic Party of India, represented by its National Vice President Sharfuddin Ahmad, through Advocate A. Selvin Raja.

According to the PIL, the Right to Life includes the right to health under Article 21 of the Constitution and at this juncture, every person in India has the invaluable right to be vaccinated free of cost.

The PIL submitted that India has seen a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases again from February 2021, where India recorded 11,000 cases on February 10, and in the next 50 days, the daily average was around 22,000 cases per day and in the following 10 days, cases rose sharply with the daily average reaching 89,800. Many cities reported a chronic shortage of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, which are also evident from the desperate cries for help on social media platforms.

The petition submitted that though several state governments said they are creating new facilities, experts said that its going to be hard to keep pace with the rising number of infections. India has been consistently reporting more than 400,000 cases for days now. Crematoriums and graveyards have been running day and night in several cities and people have to wait for hours to get their deceased relatives cremated or buried but experts say the actual number of deaths could be much higher.

The people around the country pin their hopes on a vaccine to put an end to this pandemic. Covishield, which is being manufactured by Pune-based Serum Institute of India is priced at Rs 150 per dose for Centre, Rs 400 per dose for state governments, and Rs 600 a dose for private hospitals. Both anti-Covid vaccines are administered in two doses. In this pandemic time, this could seem to be an excessive profit as the majority of India’s people cannot bear these vaccine costs, the petition alleged.

It is highlighted in the PIL that the situation in India is graver due to the population density. The maintenance of social distancing is also hardly possible in view of the demography, ghettos and traditional habits so prevention is better than the cure. Therefore, every person in India needs uniform and compulsory vaccination otherwise in view of contagious nature of the pandemic, if a little population is left without vaccination on account of constraints of funds even the vaccine to majority of persons may undo and the country shall always remain vulnerable to the pandemic due to the people who have not been vaccinated.

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“This Hon’ble Court, under its direct supervision/monitoring may also constitute an independent body consisting of epidemiologists, virologists, doctors to discuss systemic impact, including doctors who have specialization in public health, representative of pharmaceutical companies, nurses, public health workers, social workers, auxiliary nursing midwives, social activists and volunteers to implement free and equitable vaccination across the states,” claimed the petitioner.

It is pertinent to note that the petitioner has given the example of slogan/mantra “No one is safe unless everyone is safe” of the Covax initiative co-led by the World Health Organization to ensure equitable access to vaccines across the world.

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