The Supreme Court has asked the central government to produce “complete” data on its purchase history of three Covid-19 vaccines, which are being used in the nationwide inoculation drive, as it continued its suo-moto hearing on the Covid-19 crisis management in the country. The three vaccines are: Oxford University-AstraZeneca’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin (both with two-dose regimen), and Russia-made Sputnik V (which is administered in single dose).
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“The data should clarify the dates of all procurement orders placed by the central government for all three vaccines, the quality of vaccines as ordered on each date, and the projected date of supply,” a three-judge bench, comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said, passing its orders.
The top court also sought to know from the Centre the percentage of population that has been vaccinated with a single dose, as well both the doses (of Covishield and Covaxin), as against eligible beneficiaries in the first three phases of the nationwide vaccination drive. While Covishield and Covaxin were given approval by India’s drugs regulator in January, Sputnik V was granted emergency use authorisation (EUA) in April.
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Additionally, the bench directed the Union government to outline how it plans to vaccinate the remainder of the population from phases 1, 2 and 3. It also directed the Centre to list steps being taken to ensure availability of the drug to treat mucormycosis, also known as black fungus, which has been seen in several patients who have recovered from Covid-19.
An affidavit with all these details should be filed by the Union of India within two weeks, the bench said, listing June 30 as the next date of hearing.
“We also note that the Union of India’s stated position in its affidavit dated 9 May 2021 is that every state/UT government shall provide vaccination free of cost to its population,” the court observed further, directing central and state governments to file an affidavit, also within two weeks, to clarify their position and put on record their individual policies over providing vaccination free of cost to the beneficiaries.
These orders were passed by the Supreme Court on May 31 but were put up on its website only on June 2.
The hearing on the central government’s vaccination policy comes at a time when several states have complained of a shortage of vaccine doses. However, Union minister Prakash Javadekar claimed on May 28 “all citizens will be vaccinated by December 2021,” a claim reiterated on Tuesday by his ministerial colleague G Kishan Reddy and ICMR’s chief Dr Balram Bhargava.
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Since the beginning of the vaccination drive on January 16, the number of vaccine doses administered across the country stands at 218,546,667, the Union ministry of health and family welfare’s (MoHFW) updated data showed at 8am on Tuesday.