A new coronavirus vaccine developed by Indian pharmaceutical company Zydus Cadila will be available soon for those between 12-18 years of age, the central government said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court on Saturday.
Filed in response to the Supreme Court’s pointed questions about the vaccination drive that followed a dramatic overhaul in its policy earlier this month, the centre also briefed the court about its plans to vaccinate all adults in the country by the end of the year.
It said that 186.6 crore doses are needed to vaccinate people above 18 years who number 93-94 crore.
Walk in vaccinations have been allowed for all ages and digital divide is not a constraint for access to vaccines anymore, it added.
Calling its vaccination policy dynamic and not static, the centre said COVID-19 shots are now free for all above 18 years under the new policy in effect since Monday.
The centre also said it has asked states to probe fake vaccine camps and take strict action against those responsible.
Vaccination figures are put out in the public domain daily, it said, underscoring its efforts at transparency.
There is a new scheme of vouchers to make private vaccination centres accessible to economically weaker sections of society, it said, adding NGOs can buy these vouchers and give it to those who need it.
“Vaccination for COVID-19 is being implemented on the lines of universal immunisation programme,” it said.
The 375-page government affidavit in the top court came amid growing concerns about the Delta Plus variant of the coronavirus and an impending third wave, weeks after the second wave of COVID-19 left thousands of dead and unleashed unprecedented suffering.
New variants are a concern in India, where more than half the population is still not vaccinated. Only about 5.6 per cent of India’s adult population has received two doses.
Earlier this month, in a sharply worded order that raised tough questions for the government, the Supreme Court had said that the centre’s policy of paid vaccination for those between 18 and 44 was “arbitrary and irrational”.
Flagging several other flaws – including shortage of vaccine doses and problems faced by rural people in accessing vaccines – the court asked the centre to review its vaccination policy and “place on record a roadmap of projected availability of vaccines till 31 December 2021”.
Less than a week after the rebuke, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the centre would supply vaccines free of charge to all above 18 from June 21 and would take back control of vaccination from states in a dramatic U-turn.
The court is set to take up the case again on Wednesday.