COVID-19 vaccine update: SC quizzes Centre on mandatory online registration, dual pricing

You keep saying digital India, digital India, but you are not aware of the ground realities: Justice Chandrachud  

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 31 May 2021

The Supreme Court of India May 31, 2021 questioned the Centre’s mandatory online registration policy for vaccination against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The apex court highlighted that people without access to the Internet will not be able to register on the COWIN portal, which is mandatory for the 18-44 age group.

Justice DY Chandrachud said:

You can certainly have registration, but how will you answer the digital divide? How do you answer the question about migrant labourers who have to go from one state to another?

In rural areas, Gram Panchayats have set up centres to provide internet access to villagers and help them book a vaccination slot, Tushar Mehta, the solicitor-general of India, informed the court. He added that walk-ins are now allowed depending on availability of doses.

The court pointed out that it might not be practical for many in poor villages to reach these common centres for Internet, especially when there are problems with the portal and it takes several attempts for the urban citizens to register for a slot.

“You keep saying digital India, digital India, but you are not aware of the ground realities,” remarked Chandrachud.

The bench comprising justices Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat were hearing a suo moto case on the country’s COVID-19 crisis.

The SC also questioned the Centre’s rationale behind the dual pricing of the vaccines for the Centre and the states. The court also asked the why the Centre is only procuring for the population above 45 years of age and not below.

For the 18-45 age group, the Centre has fixed the rate for only 50 per cent of the doses, the court pointed out.

“Can we say that 50 per cent of population between 18 and 45 years will be able to afford the vaccines? Not at all,” said Justice Chandrachud.

Among other latest vaccine updates:

  • India will be testing the efficacy of mixing two different doses of COVID-19 vaccines to see if it improves immunity, said Dr NK Arora, chairman of Covid-19 working group under National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization
  • Close to 12 crore doses will be available in June, the Centre announced. Half of it meant for the above-45 population will be procured by the central government and supplied to the states and Unition territories while the rest will be up for direct procurement for the 18-44 age group.
  • The Centre told SC May 31 that the entire eligible population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021
  • The central government is also testing if a single dose of Covishield will provide enough immunisation. This, along with the single-dose Sputnik V Light that will be soon incorporated in the nationwide immunisation drive, will help cover a wider population, the Centre said.



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