The Kerala high court has directed the Centre to allow scheduling, on CoWIN portal, of second Covishield dose after four weeks from the first for those who want to take it earlier than the present suggested gap of 84 days.
Justice P B Suresh Kumar said that if the central and state governments can permit persons travelling abroad to choose between early and better protection from COVID-19, there is no reason why the same privilege cannot be extended to those here who want early protection in connection with their employment or education.
'All those are not persons who reside and settle permanently abroad. Most of them are persons who have to come back to India soon after their assignment,' the court observed.
The high court, in its order dated September 3 which was made available on Monday, said that even according to the Union health ministry's policy the people shall have the choice to get early vaccination, for the implementation of which vaccine is being distributed on payment basis through private hospitals as well.
It further said that according to the Centre vaccination was voluntary and there was no compulsion on the part of anyone to accept it and therefore, the requirement to administer two doses of the vaccine and the time interval between them for better protection from infection 'can only be considered as advisory'.
The court also said that when people have the right to refuse to accept vaccine, there is absolutely no reason why the State should take the stand that they shall not be permitted to accept the second dose after four weeks in terms of the original protocol, especially when they themselves are procuring the vaccine by spending money from their pockets.
It said that since such exercise of right by individuals cannot be absolute and was subject to the rights of others to health, the government can treat those who take second dose early as a separate class from others, who take the jab after 84 days, while imposing or relaxing restrictions to contain the spread of the pandemic.
With these observations, the court said, 'The fourth respondent (Centre) is directed to make necessary provisions forthwith in the CoWIN portal, so as to enable scheduling of second dose of Covishield vaccine after four weeks of the first dose for those who want to accept the second dose after a period of four weeks in terms of the initial protocol of the vaccine.'
The observations and directions of the court came while allowing the plea by Kitex Garments Ltd, represented by advocate Blaze K Jose, seeking permission to administer the second dose of Covishield vaccine to its workers without having to wait for 84 days.
Kitex, in its plea, had said that it has already vaccinated more than 5,000 of its workers with the first dose and has arranged for the second dose at a cost of nearly Rs 93 lakh, but was unable to administer the same due to the prevailing restrictions.
The Centre had opposed the plea by contending that the 84-day gap between two doses of Covishield was fixed to increase the efficacy of the vaccine, as recommended by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) and was also based on the technical inputs provided by the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).