The Maharashtra government on June 30 told the Bombay High Court that it would soon start home vaccination against COVID-19 for people who are immobile or bedridden on an experimental basis, and would not wait for an approval from the Centre.
State Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni told a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G S Kulkarni that home vaccination on a trial and experimental basis would be introduced in Pune district first.
''We will not refer the proposal to start home vaccination to the Centre for approval. We (state government) will take our own decision. We will explore this possibility (home vaccination) on a trial basis in Pune district,'' Kumbhakoni said.
The state government on Tuesday filed an affidavit in the HC, saying there would be conditions imposed, like taking a written consent from the beneficiary's family and a certificate from the family doctor taking responsibility in case of any adverse reaction to the vaccine.
The HC on Wednesday said the condition asking for a certificate from a doctor was "impractical".
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There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
''We hope and trust that you (government) won't insist on a doctor to certify. How can a doctor take responsibility? Do not put such an impractical condition,'' Chief Justice Datta said.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by two advocates - Dhruti Kapadia and Kunal Tiwari- seeking a direction to the Centre and the state government to introduce door-to-door vaccination for senior citizens above the age of 75, specially-abled people and those who are bed-ridden and hence, unable to move out of their homes.
On Tuesday, the government in its affidavit said it would have to first take approval from the Union government before starting home vaccinations against COVID-19. This prompted the court to question why the approval was required when other states like Kerala, Jharkhand and Bihar have already started door-to-door vaccination.
The high court on Wednesday pointed out some media reports of nurses and doctors travelling to people's homes in a hilly region of Tripura to administer the vaccine. The court posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday in the judges' chamber. "We will hear the matter tomorrow in chambers in the presence of the chairman of the State COVID-19 Task Force," the bench said.
The HC also said the state government can go ahead with its home vaccination drive on an experimental basis and need not wait for orders from the court.
(With PTI inputs)