By LE Desk

Chennai, April 19: The Madras high court on Monday directed the Tamil Nadu government to prioritise Covid-19 vaccination and open special counters in all government centres for the disabled, irrespective of whether they attained the age of 45 years.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamorrthy passed the order based on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by disability rights activist and co-founder of Chennai-based Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, Meenakshi Balasubramanian, the Hindustan Times reported.

The court also asked the state government to draft guidelines and decide the minimum age limit within three days and if necessary, hold consultations with the central government and vaccine manufacturers to avoid adverse effects.

There should be a separate counter, priority queuing and vaccination centres should be accessible such as constructing ramps as prescribed in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, the court noted.

“At any rate, persons with disabilities should be given priority in being vaccinated even if the numbers do not warrant an exclusive counter being set up at every government vaccination centre,” the court added.

In her petition, Balasubramanian said that people with disabilities may not be able to maintain physical distance and wear masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic. She pointed out that those with development and intellectual disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism aren’t used to masks and drooling often made it unusable. Caregivers also have to be in close contact with them, she said.

The court also took note of documents submitted by the Centre which showed that that certain categories of persons with disabilities who require high support, intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, acid attack victims whose respiratory system has been affected, among others, are already being viewed as persons who are at greater risk of being infected.

The state today submitted to the court that only certain categories of people with disabilities were being prioritised by the central government and that it had written to the Centre to open the drive to all categories but were yet to receive a response.

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