Vaccine doses in private hospitals under scrutiny
The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday directed both the Centre and State government to consider issuing directions to private hospitals on the vaccination process. It did so after taking note of the situation created by restricting COVID-19 vaccines only for frontline workers and priority groups for those aged 18-44 in all government vaccination centres, but not in private hospitals.
A special division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar issued the directions while hearing PIL petitions related to issues cropping up due to COVID-19.
Pointing out several anomalies in the vaccination process in Karnataka, the bench noted that Covaxin, supply of which is much lesser than required, is being utilised only for the second dose for those aged above 45 years in government centres. But private hospitals are administering this vaccine, both the first and second dose, for anyone over the age of 18. Private hospitals are administering Covishield first and second dose to anyone over the age of 18, the bench noted.
Submission by PHANA
The bench recorded the statement of H.M. Prasanna, President of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes’ Association, that the State government has issued advisory to use Covaxin only for the second dose for those above 45 years. He pointed out that private hospitals, as on date, are entitled to administer both the doses of both the vaccines for all persons above the age of 18 without any restriction as long as people register on the Cowin portal.
On a query by the court on why the State government did not impose such restrictions on private hospitals, Advocate-General Prabhuling K. Navadgi said that the private hospitals are ‘partners’ with the government on COVID-19 health management and, hence, it did not impose restrictions.
The State government’s restrictions have created a scenario in which those belonging to 18-44 age group cannot get the first dose of any of the two vaccines at government centres unless they are frontline workers or belong to a priority group, but can get the first dose in private hospitals by paying a fee, the bench said.
Meanwhile, the bench directed the State government to ensure that frontline workers and specified priority groups are not prevented from taking the vaccine merely because they were unable to register for the same, and the authorities must evolve a mechanism for their registration for the vaccine.