The Delhi High Court on Thursday, 25 November, asked the Union government about the efficacy and requirement of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, which are being administered in other countries.
The Division Bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh directed the government to consult with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and file an affidavit on whether or not there is a need for booster shots in India, Bar and Bench reported.
Inquiring why booster shots were not being made available in India like other countries such as the United States, the Delhi High Court asked the government to clarify its stand on the issue and if considered necessary, then submit a timeline of the proposed rollout, Indian Express reported.
The bench added,
“The decision should not be based on economics because no doubt it is an expensive proposition and the government is doing it free for most and not many people are having to pay for it. Maybe that is the consideration that the government does not want to give this at this stage, but then we don’t want to land in a situation that we are overly conservative on this, and we land up in a situation like we were in the second wave. We will actually lose the advantage of this vaccination.”
The court further expressed its concern over unused vaccine doses and said, “There are also reports that a large number of vaccine doses are lying unused whose shelf life would expire in some time to come.”
Concerned that with schools reopening and beginning offline classes, children might trigger a new wave of COVID-19 infections, the court asked the status of vaccination for children below 18 years of age to be included in the affidavit.
"The court further observed, “On one hand, we have Dr Guleria's statement and on the other we have all of the West, which is advocating giving a booster, not even voluntarily. Thus, we need to know from experts. There has to be some serious thought given to this. We don't want to land up in a situation like the Second Wave. If we don't act in time, we might lose all the advantage of this investment we've put in," Bar and Bench reported.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Randeep Guleria had earlier said that booster shots were not needed in India immediately, and that the possibility of a “huge third wave” is “declining each passing day.”
Asking the Union government to file the affidavit, the court posted the matter for hearing on 14 December.
(With inputs from The Indian Express and Bar and Bench.)