By LE Staff

New Delhi, June 28, 2021: The possibility of a resurgence in Covid-19 infection is “speculative” and will depend on the behaviour of citizens as well as the virus, the Health Ministry has told the Supreme Court.

The Ministry has also informed the apex court that a new coronavirus vaccine developed by Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila will be available soon for those between 12-18 years of age.

The government also informed the court that the Drugs Controller General of India had on May 12 permitted Bharat Biotech to conduct clinical trials on the healthy volunteers aged between two and 18 years for its vaccine, Covaxin. “The enrolment process for this trial has also begun,” it said.

In an affidavit filed in the top court in a suo motu case on distribution of essential supplies and services during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre also briefed the court about its plans to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of the year.

It said that 186.6 crore doses are needed to vaccinate people above 18 years who number 93-94 crore. Walk in vaccinations have been allowed for all ages and digital divide is not a constraint for access to vaccines anymore, it added.

Calling its vaccination policy dynamic and not static, the Centre said Covid-19 shots are now free for all above 18 years under the new policy in effect since June 21. Stressing that it has made efforts towards transparency in Covid vaccination, the government said figures are put out in the public domain daily. 

There is a new scheme of vouchers to make private vaccination centres accessible to economically weaker sections of society, it said, adding NGOs can buy these vouchers and give it to those who need it.

“Vaccination for COVID-19 is being implemented on the lines of universal immunisation programme,” the government said in the 375-page affidavit filed through Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati.

The Centre also said it has asked states to probe fake vaccine camps and take strict action against those responsible.

On the resurgence of the coronavirus infections, the affidavit said, “Possibility of any such resurgence would necessarily be speculative at this stage. However, the possibility of resurgence would depend on the behaviour pattern of the virus and the behaviour of the citizens, whether they follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour or not”.

The Centre said States had been cautioned to maintain a “continuous vigil” and plan in advance for any exigencies that may arise due to resurgence of the pandemic. Communications were regularly being sent to States regarding current trajectory of cases, need for adherence to “Test-Track-Treat” policy for containment of outbreaks, etc.

High caseload districts had been specifically reviewed and asked to present their district action plan for COVID-19 management, the affidavit said.

It said the Empowered Groups were reconstituted on May 29. These groups include ones on emergency management plan and strategy, emergency response capabilities, augmenting human resources and capacity building, oxygen, vaccination, testing, partnership, information, communication and public engagement, economic and welfare measures and pandemic response and coordination.

The government said there was no “global scientific evidence” that the virus would target children. “Though there is no global scientific evidence of virus selecting to affect a particular age group, the Central government has ensured that all State governments are geared up to deal with any such potential threat to children,” it said.

The government said it had received many requests for door-to-door vaccination, especially for the elderly and the disabled. However, there were several “valid and germane reasons” against it. These span from risk of high vaccine wastage to “increased time” involved in visiting beneficiaries. Other reasons include addressing Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) in an adequate manner in a home-setting, protocol of 30-minute observation post vaccination, break in cold chain of the vaccine due to frequent opening of the vaccine carrier at every household, health risk for vaccinators.

The Health Ministry said over 31 crore vaccines were administered across the country as on June 25. Of this, 7,84,37,353 doses were given to persons between 18 and 44 years. A total of 27.3% of eligible population (18 years and above) had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the government said.

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