The Madras High Court on Thursday asked the Central government to clarify whether persons who have already been administered both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine would require a booster dose and if so, by what time period should the same be administered.
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy sought clarification on this aspect, in view of concerns raised that the protection afforded to those who have been administered both doses of the vaccine may not even last a year.
The Court was hearing the suo motu case registered to monitor COVID-19 management in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
Advocate C Kanagaraj submitted that the Tamil Nadu government should consider importing Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, which is a single-dose vaccine. He pointed out that Telangana has already taken steps to import this vaccine.
In the backdrop of these submissions, and given that there continues to be a shortage in vaccines, the Court proceeded to observe that there should be some clarity on the part of the Central government, on the basis of scientific study, as to when those already vaccinated would require another round of vaccination.
The procurement plan for such vaccine should also be in place, the Court added.
On a related note, the Court on Thursday noted that the Central government has not indicated sufficient details on the future allocation of vaccines and drugs to Tamil Nadu.
ASG R Sankaranarayanan submitted that the report already filed explains how allocation would based on the number of active cases in States. He added that a report can be filed on what the future plan would be.
A centralised plan of action to deal with emergencies should be indicated by the Centre when the matter is taken up next on Monday, the Court proceeded to direct.
The Court further took note of submissions made by Government Pleader N Mala that Puducherry may require about 65 MT of oxygen in the coming days. She informed that while there is an INOX plant manufacturing oxygen, about 40MT of the oxygen produced goes to Tamil Nadu whereas only 28 MT is sent to Puducherry.
She added that the Puducherry government has already written to the Centre, apprising that it may require more oxygen in the coming weeks.
“There has to be an increase in the supply of oxygen to both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. (Puducherry) says that its demand may go up to 65 MT, though the supply at present is adequate and manageable … It is hoped that by now, the Centre would have augmented the supply of oxygen to ensure equitable and enhanced supply to all States including these two (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry)”, the Court recorded.
During the course of the hearing, Advocate General R Shanmugasundaram submitted that the oxygen requirements of Tam Nadu are manageable at present. He added that more beds, about 20,000, are also being added and that there are no serious threats.
The Chief Justice, however, responded,
“We have to plan for the future also. We must not drop our guard … so next time we are not caught napping.”
The following were the other highlights of the interim order passed on Thursday:
- The Court ordered that every endeavour should be made to declare COVID-19 test results as soon as possible so that afflicted persons can quarantine even if they are asymptomatic.
- In view of concerns that some crematoriums are charging high prices to cremate the COVID dead, the Court ordered that local administration be vigilant and come down heavily on those charging exorbitant rates for cremating the dead. There are several reports of unlawful demands and haggling in crematoria which should be avoided, the Court added.
- The State should prepare local authorities to ensure there is an element of dignity in conducting last rites, the Court said.
- The Court recorded submissions by the Greater Chennai Municipal Corporation that wanton use of disinfectants for sanitisation purposes could have an adverse effect. However, to the extent possible, a drive to ensure cleanliness should be carried out all over the state, the Court ordered. To the extent possible, sanitization through the use of sprays and disinfectants is effective, particularly at dumpsters where garbage is dumped, the Court observed. This should be undertaken on daily basis with concerned personnel being adequately protected, the Court directed.
The matter is posted to be heard next on Monday.