84-day gap between Covishield doses a violation of right to better protect life, says plea in Supreme Court

Kitex Garments Limited questions ‘discrimination’ in policy that relaxes the gap for foreign workers and sportspersons

The 84-day gap between two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, Covishield, is a violation of the right of an adult to protect himself better from a possibly fatal disease, a petition in the Supreme Court has argued.

Kerala-based company, Kitex Garments Limited, contended that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had said Covishield is most effective if administered with a gap of six to eight weeks between the two shots.

The plea has questioned the “discrimination” in Government policy, which relaxes the 84-day limit for foreign workers and sportspersons, but remains rigid for their domestic counterparts.

Kitex, represented by advocate Haris Beeran, has argued that companies are anxious for the welfare of their employees and the safety of their work environment. Should they wait 84 days to have their staff fully vaccinated?

Kitex said it had spent over ₹50 lakh from its own funds to administer the first dose of the Covishield vaccine to 6,706 persons in June this year. It had purchased another 12,000 doses of Covishield for its employees. However, the 84-day gap between the doses was introduced subsequently.

The company has filed its appeal against a decision of a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court in December. The Division Bench had set aside a September 2021 order of the Single Judge Bench, which allowed the administration of the second dose of Covishield vaccine after four weeks, for those willing to take it.

The Single Judge had reasoned that, “If the Government can permit persons who are intending to travel abroad to exercise a choice between early protection and better protection from COVID-19 infection, there is absolutely no reason why the same privilege shall not be extended to others who want early protection in connection with their employment, education, etc.”

Kitex argued that by setting aside the Single Judge’s order, the High Court had “denied persons to better protect their life and the lives of their families and co-workers and the same is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution”.

The petition said the High Court ought to have considered that the Union Government had itself kept the gap between two doses as four to six weeks and that it was increased to 45 days, and thereafter to 84 days, due to concerns over the availability of the vaccine.

“Domestic labour and health and life of workers are also fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution. Any attempt to differentiate between international travellers and domestic workers in terms of vaccination and relaxation of one category alone would result in discrimination,” Kitex argued.

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