The Union government on Monday told the Bombay High Court that its national guidelines do not at present allow a door-to-door drive to vaccinate people against COVID-19.
The Union government’s counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, said some state governments and municipal bodies had decided to ignore its advisory guidelines and were conducting door-to-door vaccination for special categories of citizens, but it was not possible yet to make such drives a part of the national policy.
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ASG Singh was responding to a previous query posed by a bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni on what the Centre thought about the BMC’s request seeking its permission to conduct door-to-door vaccination for the elderly, bedridden, or such category of citizens.
“On the BMC’s permission letter to Union ministry of health and family welfare, the ministry says its current advisory against such drives has been formulated based on recommendations of experts,” ASG Singh said.
“Some states and municipal bodies have been carrying out door-to-door vaccination but from the national angle, the national policy will be followed. We request the court to bear with us for some time. For the time being, it is not practical or possible,” he said.
The ASG said the Centre kept improvising and updating its policy from time to time and perhaps, sometime in future, it might permit door-to-door vaccination drives.
ASG Singh said since the Union government’s policy was merely advisory in nature, it had not asked states such as Kerala, Odisha, Jharkhand, which were conducting such drives, to roll them back.
The HC then pointed out that in case Maharashtra, which has already expressed its desire to conduct door-to-door vaccination drives for the bedridden, decides to go ahead with it, then the state would stand on the same footing as the states mentioned above.
The bench also asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) if it would follow the Centre or the state’s guidelines in case Maharashtra began a door-to-door drive.
“We will follow the state’s guidelines. The state is thinking about the drive but issues like lack of manpower, since three persons will be needed to visit each person getting vaccinated, requirement of the ambulance, and ensuring no wastage of vaccine, have to be be considered,” BMC counsel Anil Sakhre said.
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The state’s counsel, Gita Shastri, told HC that while news reports had quoted state health minister Rajesh Tope expressing a willingness to begin door-to-door vaccination drives for the bedridden, and for formulating a separate protocol for the same, she was yet to take instructions as to when a final decision would be taken.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by lawyer Dhruti Kapadia, seeking a door-to-door vaccination drive for citizens above 75 years of age, and for those who were bedridden.
HC said it will pass detailed directions on the same later this evening. It will hear the plea further on June 22.