The Kerala High Court on Monday directed the Centre to allow individuals to book the second dose of the Covishield vaccine four weeks after the first shot, PTI reported. The second shot is currently being administered at least 84 days after the first one.
On May 13, the Union health ministry had increased the gap between two doses of the vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India to 12 weeks to 16 weeks from the earlier interval of six to eight weeks.
On Monday, the High Court also asked the Centre to make necessary provisions on the CoWIN portal to allow people to book slots for second doses four weeks after they receive the first jab.
The court was hearing a plea filed by private firm Kitex Garments Limited which sought to administer second doses of the vaccine to its employees before the 84-day gap, Bar and Bench reported. In the petition, the company said that it had arranged for the second doses which it could not use before the stipulated period.
The Centre had opposed the plea saying that the 84-day gap between two doses was announced to increase the vaccine’s efficacy. The Centre also said that its decision was based on inputs provided by the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group.
In his judgement on Tuesday, Justice PB Suresh Kumar said that he was “worried” if efficacy was the reason for the interval as he had taken the second dose within four to six weeks of the first one. He added that the government should provide scientific data to support its argument about higher efficacy.
Kumar also observed that the 84-day gap was discriminatory as the government was allowing people travelling abroad to take the second dose after a four-week interval, Live Law reported.
“…There is absolutely no reason why the same privilege shall not be extended to others who want early protection in connection with their employment, education etc,” the judge said.
The High Court order also cited the Union Health Ministry policy’s that gives people a choice to get early vaccination, according to PTI. It said that more vaccines were being distributed through private hospitals for people who were willing to take the shot earlier.
The court also noted that the Union health ministry, in its website, has said that coronavirus vaccination was voluntary.
“If that be so, the requirement to administer two doses of the vaccine and the time interval between the two doses for better protection from infection can only be considered as advisory,” the court observed.