The Kerala High Court has ordered the Centre to allow scheduling of the second COVISHIELD dose on the COWIN portal after four weeks from the first for those who want to take it sooner than the current 84-day gap.
According to Justice P B Suresh Kumar, if the central and state governments can allow people traveling abroad to choose between early and better protection from COVID-19, there is no reason why the same privilege cannot be extended to people here who need early protection for work or school.
The observations and directions came as the court granted Kitex Garments Ltd's request, represented by advocate Blaze K Jose, to administer the second dose of COVISHIELD vaccine to its workers without having to wait 84 days.
According to the Union government, vaccination is voluntary and there is no compulsion on the part of anyone to accept it; thus, the requirement to administer two doses of the vaccine and the time interval between them for better infection protection "can only be considered as an advisory."
The court also stated that when people have the right to refuse the vaccine, there is no reason why the state should take the position that they should not be allowed to accept the second dose after four weeks in accordance with the original protocol, especially when they are paying for the vaccine out of their own pockets.
It stated that because such an exercise of right by individuals cannot be absolute and is subject to the rights of others to health, the government can treat those who receive the second dose early as a separate class from those who receive the jab after 84 days, while imposing or relaxing restrictions to contain the pandemic's spread.
“The fourth respondent (Union government) is directed to make necessary provisions forthwith in the Co-WIN portal, so as to enable scheduling of the second dose of COVISHIELD vaccine after four weeks of the first dose for those who want to accept the second dose after a period of four weeks in terms of the initial protocol of the vaccine,” the court said.
Kitex stated in its petition that it had already vaccinated over 5,000 of its employees with the first dose and had arranged for the second dose at a cost of nearly Rs 93 lakh, but was unable to administer it due to the current restrictions.
The Centre contended that the 84-day interval between two doses of COVISHIELD was designed to increase vaccine efficacy, as recommended by the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), and was also based on technical input from the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG).