The Kerala High Court has directed the Centre to tweak the CoWin portal to allow individuals to schedule their second dose of COVID vaccine after four weeks of their first shot as opposed to the present mandate of the 84-days waiting period between the two doses. The high court stressed that the court's ruling is applicable only in cases of paid vaccines.
Justice PB Suresh Kumar observed that if persons who were travelling for work, education or the Tokyo Olympics were permitted by the government to take their second dose after 28 days, then why couldn't the same relaxation be extended to those who want early protection as opposed to better protection.
The high court observed that since the vaccination program was voluntary, then there was absolutely no reason why the State shouldn't permit individuals to exercise their right to early protection and allow them to take their second dose after four weeks in terms of the original COVID protocol on vaccines—especially when they were paying for the vaccines by "spending money from their pockets".
"The principle that every human being of adult years and sound mind has a right to determine what shall be done with his/her body, though not of Indian origin, has been widely accepted by the courts in India," the high court said in its order.
The high court's verdict came on a plea filed by two companies - Kitex Garments Ltd and Kitex Childrenswear, that sought to administer the second dose of the covid vaccine to its employees foregoing the 84-day period as mandated by the government.
In its plea, two companies alleged that more than 10,000 workers had already been administered their first dose. The company alleged that they arranged for the second dose of the vaccine, but was were unable to administer the same because of the prevailing COVID restrictions that allow the second dose to be taken after a 84-day waiting period.
Right to early protection as opposed to better protection: Plea in HC
"Vulnerable group who have been accorded relaxation to take their second dose after 28 days can have lesser protection but others should optimum protection, the classification is unreasonable," advocate Blaze Jose said. The lawyer was responding to the Centre submission that the 84-day gap was for better vaccine efficacy.
"Medicine protocol doesn't prohibit individuals from taking it earlier because at 28 days vaccine protection is at 70% protection, while at 84 days 90% protection," Jose said referring to the Centre's submission on efficacy.
"It is admitted that there is no harm in taking vaccines at 28 days. The choice is whether I want earlier protection or best protection," Jose submitted.
84-day waiting period between the two COVID vaccine doses is for better efficacy: Centre
During arguments, the high court on August 24 had asked the Centre to clarify whether the mandated 84-day gap between the two vaccine doses was a result of vaccine shortage or scientific evidence of higher efficacy. "If it is a matter of availability, there is no reason to prevent the petitioner, who has already purchased the vaccine. Not only this petitioner, but hundreds of people who can afford to purchase directly are waiting on account of this restriction," the Court had said.
The Centre filed a statement in court submitting that the 84-day waiting period was to increase the efficacy of the vaccine. The interval between the two doses (of Covishield) under the COVID19 vaccination drive has undergone a series of revisions based on the available and emerging scientific evidence mentioned above with overall guidance of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC), the Centre said.
"However, with a view to providing full vaccination coverage and facilitating international travel for genuine reasons, it was decided to allow the second dose before the prescribed time period of 12-16 weeks (84 days), it added. As per the evidence available, the immunity provided by 2 doses of Covishield vaccine with interval less than 12-16 weeks would be better than partial vaccination (single dose), the Centre said.