KOCHI: How did the Kerala government deviate from the vaccination schedule set by the central government and what was the reason for the Centre to increase the gap between first and second dose of COVISHIELD from 4 weeks to 12-16 weeks? These were the queries posed by the Kerala High Court to the Union Health Ministry and the state government on Thursday.
The questions from Justice P B Suresh Kumar came while hearing a plea by Kitex Garments Ltd seeking permission to administer the second dose of COVISHIELD vaccine to its workers.
The court asked the state government how it could relax the prevailing protocol, which mandates a gap of 12-16 weeks between the 1st and 2nd jabs, for people going abroad when it was citing the instructions as "gospel truth" in all its circulars or notifications.
"If what the central government is saying was gospel truth, then how did you (state government) deviate from it? Can you do that?" the court asked.
To this the state government responded that the Centre's protocols were "violated" to help people who had to go abroad for employment and were stranded here waiting to be vaccinated.
The court said that the benefit of any illegality on the part of the state cannot be extended to others, but Kitex contended that there was no violation on the part of the Kerala government as the actual minimum period between two jabs of COVISHIELD was 4-6 weeks and this was the protocol followed in respect of frontline workers.
The court, thereafter, asked why then there was a restriction now which stated that gap should be 12-16 weeks.
To this, the lawyer for Kitex said the reason was the increased efficacy of the vaccine if the second dose was taken after a longer gap.
The court, however, did not accept the reason cited by the company's lawyer and impleaded the Union Health Ministry as a party in the matter to find out the reason for the longer gap between the two doses of COVISHIELD.
It directed the ministry to come with answers to its query on Friday, the next date of hearing.
Kitex in its plea has said that it has already vaccinated more than 5,000 of its workers with the first dose and has arranged for the second dose, but was unable to administer the same due to the prevailing restrictions.