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COVID-19 vaccination drive: Plea for age relaxation and to allow more private sector participation

Today a plea was submitted in the Delhi High Court asking direction to the Centre and AAP government to relax the age criterion for the COVID-19 vaccination drive and to allow more private sector participation in the process.

The petition was filed by a final year law student of Delhi University, who also inquired direction to the authorities to formulate a policy to provide the advantages of vaccination drive to senior citizens, differently-abled persons and poor sections of the society by initiating door-to-door vaccination services in the national capital.

The claimant Mrigank Mishra, expressed through advocate Kushal Kumar, said in the data of the dangerous situation of rising coronavirus cases and the second wave which is more severe than the first one, it is appropriate to boost the vaccination drive for which widening of involvement of private sector entities is necessary as it will facilitate rapid and mass vaccination and allow door-to-door vaccination of the citizens.

The plea said the current system of vaccination drive requires visiting centres after securing an appointment on the Co-Win portal and the on-the-spot registrations are very limited in number and often lead to long queues. Certain classes of citizens including bed-ridden senior citizens, differently-abled persons, poor sections of the society are at disadvantage owing to the present system of vaccination drive, it said.

There is a need to remove/ relax the age restrictions in relation to the beneficiaries of vaccination drive since the rising number of coronavirus cases are anxiety for the health and safety of every citizen, the plea, filed through advocates Harsh Ahuja, Aadtya Kapoor and Akash Deep Gupta, said.

The petition has arrayed the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and Health and Family Welfare and Delhi government as parties. It said currently people above the age of 45 years are eligible for vaccines by visiting the designated COVID-19 vaccination centres. But, considering the ever-rising number of coronavirus cases, availability of foundation and supplies and in a situation where the governments have ruled out the possibilities of lockdown, expanding the reach of vaccination drive is the only solution to meet the ends.

Delhi recorded 5,506 fresh cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest single-day rise this year, while 20 more people died due to the coronavirus infection, taking the number of deaths to 11,133, according to the city Health Department.

The plea claimed there is an instant need to take adequate measures for the vaccination of a large number of citizens and the association of private players such as private labs and NGOs can boost the vaccination drive and facilitate mass vaccination.

Several experts have the same opinion and suggested that the involvement of the private sector in COVID-19 vaccination drive can help the vaccination program and lead to rapid and mass vaccination. Private players such as private diagnostics can play a key role in collaboration with the government in the administration and distribution of the vaccine owing to their vast network across the country, and trained workforce, it said.

Saying that the current system has failed to take into account that the differences in technology access and literacy are clearly preventing equal vaccine distribution, the plea said expanding the private participation would complement the government’s effort and lead to speedy mass vaccination through door-to-door vaccination of the beneficiaries.

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