When the plea moved by Meenakshi Balasubramanian, a polio survivor and co-founder of Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, came up for hearing on Friday, the first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy ordered notice to both the State and Centre returnable in three weeks.
The petitioner had sought to include persons with disability and their attendants as a priority group for the administration of COVID-19 vaccine as they are incapable of maintaining social distancing and wearing masks because of their unique characteristics, and also because the mortality among them is reported to be higher than others.
The plea said physically challenged persons face three increased risks with devastating consequences: risk of contracting virus; developing severe symptoms of COVID or dying from the disease; and having poorer health during and after the pandemic whether or not they are infected with the virus.
The petitioner also pointed out that based on the organisation’s representation, the government had reportedly stated that it was only considering the inclusion of those below 50 years with comorbidities as next in line for the vaccine. The Ministry of Family and Health Welfare has failed to see the WHO guidelines and the UN Secretary General’s policy brief on disability-inclusive response to COVID, he said, pointing out that other countries have included persons with disabilities as a priority group.