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Supreme Court Slams Centre's Vaccination Policy For 18-44 Year-Olds
Supreme Court Slams Centre's Vaccination Policy For 18-44 Year-Olds

New Delhi, June 3 : The Centre's policy of giving free vaccination to the 45-plus age group in the first two phases of vaccination and having a paid system for those below, is "prima facie arbitrary and irrational", the Supreme Court said in its detailed order of Monday's hearing made available on Wednesday. Flagging several other flaws -- including shortage of vaccine doses and problems faced by rural people in accessing vaccines -- the court asked the Centre to review its vaccination policy and "place on record a roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021". The court will take up the case again on June 30.

The government has said it will vaccinate the eligible population by December this year -- an announcement that has been met with much scepticism by critics and opposition parties. 

The top court also highlighted the pricing issue of vaccines, asking the Centre to submit a comparison of the prices of vaccines available in India to their international prices. It has been said by many critics that in India, the 18-44-year-olds are paying record prices for vaccines. In most nations, vaccines are procured by the governments and distributed to the people at no cost. 

Calling the issue of vaccination "absolutely crucial", the court said currently people in the 18-44 year age group are not just getting infected, but suffering from severe effects of the infection, "including prolonged hospitalization and, in unfortunate cases, death". 

The "changing nature of the pandemic" has created a situation where this younger age bracket also needs to be vaccinated, "although priority may be retained between different age groups on a scientific basis," the bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao and S Ravindra Bhat said in their order.  "Hence, due to the importance of vaccinating individuals in the 18-44 age group, the policy of the Central Government for conducting free vaccination themselves for groups under the first 2 phases, and replacing it with paid vaccination by the State/UT Governments and private hospitals for the persons between 18-44 years is, prima facie, arbitrary and irrational," the order read.

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