Vaccinating elderly, differently abled ‘near home’ better than ‘door to door’: Centre to HC

The Centre also told the Bombay high Court that 475 deaths were reported due to Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) till May 28

The Centre told the Bombay High Court that its committee, the National Expert Group for Vaccine Administration of Covid-19 (NEGVAC), has opined ‘near to door/home’ vaccination centres will be appropriate than the ‘door to door’ vaccination drive for elderly and specially abled persons.

The Centre filed an affidavit on Monday in this regard before a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni, which has been hearing the PIL filed by city-based lawyers Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari seeking directions to the Centre, the state and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to provide door-to-door vaccination to those aged over 75, specially abled and bed-ridden persons.

On May 20, the HC had directed the NEGVAC to consider introducing door-to-door vaccination drive and decide by June 1 whether the elderly and the differently abled persons who cannot visit vaccination centres can be administered doses at home. On June 2, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, for the Centre, sought time to convey the committee’s decision.

The court had asked as to why the authorities cannot take a step further and visit homes of beneficiaries who are unable to visit vaccination centres and vaccinate them.

The affidavit stated, “NEGVAC agreed that since the specially abled and bed-ridden elderly persons have limited mobility due to their physical conditions, there is a need to increase access by bringing vaccination services closer to such maintaining all necessary precautions.”

The central government said that all members participating in the May 25 meeting unanimously agreed that anti-Covid vaccines cannot be given at home due to issues and risks cited by the expert committee, which include addressing Adverse Events Following Immunization (AEFI) in a timely and effective manner.

The other risks include maintaining protocol of observation of each and every beneficiary for 30 minutes after vaccination and maintaining cold chain and ensuring low vaccine wastage.

Another risk cited was exposure of healthcare personnel and frontline health workers to undue pressure from community and security issues in the community. The committee also cited a risk of getting Covid-19 infection among vaccinators and mobilizers.

Based on NEGVAC’S observations, MoHFW, through decisions on May 27 and 31, has issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to all states and union territories pertaining to ‘near to home’ vaccination drive.

An affidavit filed through Satyendra Singh, Under Secretary, Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) stated that 25,309 AEFI cases were reported till May 28 out of which 1186 were serious and severe. It also said 475 deaths were reported following vaccination.

The Centre further said ‘near to home’ vaccination centres strategy for elderly and specially abled is “flexible, people-centric and follows community based approach” where sessions can be conducted at facilities near home such as schools, old age homes, Resident Welfare Association (RWA) office, sub-health centres, panchayat ghar, etc.

The MoHFW said that overall planning, review and implementation of ‘near to home’ vaccination will be the responsibility of the District and Urban Task Force. It said that for management of any AEFI, an advanced life support/basic life support/transport vehicle must be stationed at the centres to shift patients to nearby AEFI management centres.

The affidavit added, “The NEGVAC has applied its minds to the issues, concerns raised by the Court and the experts have thus arrived at a considered decision, taking holistic view of ground realities and the situation presently prevailing in the country.”

It also stated, “However, as the situation on ground is transformative, dynamic, appropriate changes will be made by MoHFW with the aid and assistance of experts in the field. The respondent assures HC that no stone is being left unturned to vaccinate as many people in the country as possible and to reach out to as many of them, being conscious of the fact that time is of essence.”

HC will hear the PIL today in the post-lunch session.

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