A plea on Monday urged the Delhi High Court to direct the Central government to give a road map for vaccinating children of the age group of 12 years and below for COVID-19. A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh said it would hear the plea on March 22.
The counsel for petitioners, a 12-year-old girl and another, submitted that presently vaccination is being administered to only children of 15-17 years of age. The court was informed by senior advocate Kailash Vasudev, appearing for the petitioners, that no road map has been given by the government for vaccinating children of the age of 12 years and below. He urged the court to direct the government to give a road map for vaccinating kids of the age group of 12 years and below.
The issue of vaccinating children below 12 years of age was raised during the hearing of a PIL filed on behalf of a minor and other seeking directions for the immediate vaccination of those in the 12-17 age group on the ground that there were fears that the third wave of COVID-19 could affect them more. The high court had earlier said it would be a “disaster” if COVID-19 vaccines are administered, especially to children, without clinical trials and had asked the Centre to quickly vaccinate kids below 18 years of age once the trials are over as the whole nation is waiting for it.
The Centre, in the affidavit filed through central government standing counsel Anurag Ahluwalia, had said that vaccination was the topmost priority of the government and all efforts were being made to achieve an objective of 100 per cent vaccination in the shortest time possible keeping the available resources in mind and availability of vaccine doses into consideration.
It had said from May 1, 2021, onwards under the new liberalised pricing and accelerated national COVID vaccination strategy, all citizens above the age of 18 years including parents of children who were residing in Delhi were already eligible for the vaccination. The Centre had said that on May 12, last year, the Drug Controller General of India has permitted Bharat Biotech to conduct clinical trials on healthy volunteers between 2 to 18 years of age for its vaccine—Covaxin.
The petitioner’s counsel had said vaccines were being administered to children of the age group of 8 to 18 years in various countries and the court may ask the authorities to conclude the process in a time-bound manner. The petition has also sought priority in vaccination to parents of children up to 17 years of age as several kids were orphaned after their parents succumbed to COVID-19 during the second wave.
There are two petitioners in the matter -- the first is a minor represented through her mother and the second is a mother of a minor child. The petition has claimed that according to the data of the number of persons infected between April 2021 to May 2021, the number of reported cases where children were infected "has risen tremendously" than 2020.
It has been alleged that the vaccine policy of India has failed to factor in children or parents of children for vaccination and the Centre and Delhi government have also failed to prepare a national plan for taking off the minors during the present pandemic. "That globally, countries have fully recognised the importance of vaccinating children, alongside adults, to curb, mitigate the ill effects of the present pandemic and have accordingly and effectively taken measures. "Vaccines for children are being produced and administered in countries such as Canada, United States of America (USA), for children between the ages of 12-17 years," it has said.
With PTI Inputs