NEW DELHI: While oxygen shortage continued in Delhi on Sunday with at least five hospitals sending out SOS calls, the Supreme Court asked the Centre to revisit its vaccine policy, saying in its current form it is detrimental to the right to public health, which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital in Malviya Nagar sounded an alarm saying 50 people, including four newborns, were at risk.
“It has become a daily fire-fight in the absence of a continuous supply. We require around 125 oxygen cylinders a day,” said an official of the hospital.
Triton Hospital in Kalkaji said it has been struggling to arrange oxygen for their neonatal intensive care unit. Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science and Research, too, took to social media seeking help from authorities.
The Supreme Court’s order that was reserved on April 30, said the present policy would compel the State governments to negotiate with manufacturers to promote competition and make it attractive for new vaccine manufactures, which will result in a serious detriment to those in the age group of 18 to 44 years, who are to be vaccinated by the state governments.
“The social strata of this age group also comprises persons who are Bahujans or belong to other under privileged and marginalized groups, like many in the other population age groups. They may not have the ability to pay,” the court said.
“Whether or not essential vaccines will be made available to them will depend upon the decision of each state government, based on its own finances, on whether or not the vaccine should be made available free or should be subsidized and if so, to what extent. This will create disparity across nation,” the court said.
Since vaccinations constitute a valuable public good, “discrimination cannot be made between different classes of citizens who are similarly circumstanced on the ground that while the Central government will carry the burden of providing free vaccines for the 45 years and above population, the state governments will discharge the responsibility of the 18 to 44 age group on such commercial terms as they may negotiate,” the court emphasised.