The possibility of a resurgence in COVID-19 infection is “speculative” and will depend on the “behaviour” of citizens and the virus, the Health Ministry has told the Supreme Court.
“Possibility of any such resurgence would necessarily be speculative at this stage. However, the possibility of resurgence would depend on the behaviour pattern of the virus and the behaviour of the citizens, whether they follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour or not,” the Ministry said.
The government said there was no “global scientific evidence” that the virus would target children. “Though there is no global scientific evidence of virus selecting to affect a particular age group, the Central government has ensured that all State governments are geared up to deal with any such potential threat to children,” its affidavit filed through Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati noted.
The government said it had received many requests for door-to-door vaccination, especially for the elderly and the disabled. However, there were several “valid and germane reasons” against it. These span from risk of high vaccine wastage to “increased time” involved in visiting beneficiaries. Other reasons include addressing Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFI) in an adequate manner in a home-setting, protocol of 30-minute observation post vaccination, break in cold chain of the vaccine due to frequent opening of the vaccine carrier at every household, health risk for vaccinators.
On the vaccination of children below 18 years, the Centre said, as of now, “companies manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines in India have only been given ‘Emergency Use Authorisation’ for vaccinating people of 18 years age and above. Therefore, COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended for persons/children less than 18 years due to the fact that the clinical trial cohort during phase 1,2 and 3 did not cover children below 18”.
Nevertheless, the government informed the court that the Drugs Controller General of India had on May 12 permitted Bharat Biotech to conduct clinical trials on the healthy volunteers aged between two and 18 years for its vaccine, Covaxin. “The enrolment process for this trial has also begun,” the affidavit said.
The Centre said States had been cautioned to maintain a “continuous vigil” and plan in advance for any exigencies that may arise due to resurgence of the pandemic. Communications were regularly being sent to States regarding current trajectory of cases, need for adherence to “Test-Track-Treat” policy for containment of outbreaks, etc.
High caseload districts had been specifically reviewed and asked to present their district action plan for COVID-19 management, the affidavit said.
It said the Empowered Groups were reconstituted on May 29. These groups include ones on emergency management plan and strategy, emergency response capabilities, augmenting human resources and capacity building, oxygen, vaccination, testing, partnership, information, communication and public engagement, economic and welfare measures and pandemic response and coordination.
The Health Ministry said over 31 crore vaccines were administered across the country as on June 25. Of this, 7,84,37,353 doses were given to persons between 18 and 44 years. A total of 27.3% of eligible population (18 years and above) had received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the government said.