India's Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Mansukh Mandaviya has announced that the government intends to use stickers to identify households that are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. He made this statement to news agency ANI when he visited Natkur village in Sarojini Nagar development block of Lucknow.as part of monitoring the "Har Ghar Dastak" campaign launched by the government.
Launched on November 3, this door-to-door campaign plans to increase the vaccination rates of 48 low performing districts across the country. It also comes at a time when the government has analysed that people are not turning up for the second dose.
This decision to provide vaccines at the doorstep was first proposed by the Maharashtra state government but rejected by the Centre. In a change of events, the Centre now is following the same. Additionally, they also want to identify fully vaccinated households. While the Supreme Court had earlier asked the government to stop putting posters identifying COVID-19 patients, it is to be seen if it allows this move of putting fully vaccinated stickers.
The move of door-to-door vaccination also creates an air of mandatory vaccination when the government has time and again stated that COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary and not mandatory. When the Meghalaya government instructed that all its employees need to be fully vaccinated, the Meghalaya High Court emphasised that COVID-19 vaccination was a voluntary affair.
What Is The Har Ghar Dastak Campaign?
According to the Mandaviya, this campaign was launched 'to enthuse and motivate people towards full COVID vaccination' in the poor performing districts across the country. Close to 10.34 crore people in the country who were supposed to take the second dose of the vaccine after the prescribed interval have not turned up to receive their second shot.
The campaign is not only aimed at achieving full vaccination. Through the door-to-door vaccination, the government also wants to provide first doses to those who have chosen to forego vaccination. The health ministry wants to achieve full first dose coverage for those eligible to receive the vaccine by the end of November. In over 48 districts, the coverage of COVID-19 vaccination is lesser than 50 per cent which could lead to outbreaks in the future.
According to government data, over 3.92 crore beneficiaries have not taken their second dose six weeks after their prescribed dates, around 1.57 crore are up to four to six weeks late, and more than 1.50 crore are up to two to four weeks overdue for their second shot of either Covishield or Covaxin.
What Happened When Maharashtra Proposed The Same?
The Maharashtra government had sought permission to initiate door-to-door vaccination for its citizens in May 2021. The Centre had refused the same and the government had then approached the Bombay High Court for the same. The Bombay High Court noted that as health is a State subject, the Maharashtra government had the right to formulate its own vaccination principles.
The High Court, however, asked the state to first run a pilot with citizens who were old, bedridden or disabled and could not access the nearest vaccination centre.
While Mandaviya's statement of using stickers to identify fully vaccinated individuals is recent, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has already been identifying housing societies with vaccinated individuals. The BMC is posting stickers at the entrance of housing societies where most of the residents are vaccinated.
Does This Make The Vaccine Mandatory?
The campaign makes it look like COVID-19 vaccination is mandatory while it has been repeatedly stated that the vaccine is voluntary. Although India has given over 110 crore vaccine doses, the country's vaccination rates are still low.
Several anti-vaccination groups have criticised this move as they believe this takes away the agency and choice of a person whether they want to get vaccinated.