[COVID-19 ] Is the 84-day gap between Covishield vaccine shots due to shortage or efficacy? Kerala High Court seeks Centre govt's response

The Court noted that if it is merely a matter of availability, there is no reason to prevent persons who are able to purchase the vaccine directly, from getting both shots within a shorter period of time.
Kerala HC , Covishield
Kerala HC , Covishield

The Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the Central government to clarify whether the mandate of 84-day gap between the two shots of Covishield vaccine, is due to shortage of the vaccine or due to scientific evidence of higher efficacy by waiting for a longer period (Kitex Garments Limited v. State of Kerala).

Single judge, Justice PB Suresh Kumar, remarked that even though news reports say that the period between vaccine shots was increased due to studies showing increase in efficacy, it is necessary to examine scientific data and the results of any studies on the matter.

Further, the Court noted that if it is merely a matter of availability, there is no reason to prevent persons who are able to purchase the vaccine directly, from getting both shots within a shorter period of time.

"If it is a matter of availability, there is no reason to prevent the petitioner, who has already purchased the vaccine. Not only this petitioner, but hundreds of people who can afford to purchase directly are waiting on account of this restriction," the Court said.

Justice Kumar also remarked during the hearing that the Central government and the State seems to be passing the buck on the matter.

"Central government seems to be putting the blame on the State. State government is taking the stand that it is in the light of the directions issued by the Central government that it is following the protocol of waiting for 84 days," the Court said.

The Court was hearing a plea filed by Kitex Garments Limited seeking to administer the second dose of the vaccine to its employees without waiting for the 84-day period as it has already purchased sufficient stock of the vaccine.

Advocate Blaze K Jose, appearing for the petitioner, claimed that the vaccine policy which requires 84 days between the two shots was prescribed because the vaccine was provided by the Central government.

However, he contended that when an individual or a company is spending their own money and procuring the vaccine directly, that condition need not be adhered to.

The Court agreed that if it is a matter of availability, there might not be many impediments for the petitioner and other similarly placed individuals and companies.

However, the Court observed that if the gap is prescribed due to studies showing improved efficacy in administering the doses over a longer period or adverse effects if done otherwise, the matter would require deeper consideration.

Therefore, the Court directed the Assistant Solicitor General to expeditiously get instructions from the Central government on the matter and submit its response along with data from any scientific studies conducted into the matter of efficacy of the vaccine.

The matter will be taken up again on Thursday.

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