The Kerala High Court, acting on news reports of overcrowding at vaccine centers in Trivandrum and Kochi instituted suo motu proceedings taking cognizance of overcrowding at vaccine centers.
In its Order, the Court noted,
"We have been alerted by press reports that there is uncontrolled crowding of persons seeking vaccinations for COVID-19."
While instituting proceedings, the Division Bench of Justices Devan Ramachandran and Dr Kauser Edappagath stated that there are press stories on overcrowding at vaccine centers in Trivandrum and Kochi.
At the outset, the State Attorney remarked that the situation was of the past when there was provision for spot registration. After the Kerala government issued an order stopping spot reservation and only online registration for both doses of vaccine, this was at an end, the State Attorney said.
"There was initially some software trouble, we have requested correction of this..", he added.
The Court pointed out that the news report as regards the situation in Trivandrum was from April 26. On the situation in Ernakulam, the Court said it had received, "reliable information that crowding at Ernakulam General Hospital for second dose is unabated".
Voicing its concern at the situation, the Court remarked,
"If uncontrolled crowding is permitted at vaccination centers, the situation will boomerang. Instead of being a prophylactic, vaccination drive will be a superspreader"
The Bench also recorded its views on why this overcrowding took place.
The Court said -
"There may be several reasons why persons may be crowding - perhaps people believe there are not enough vaccines , perhaps they want to get vaccinated before exposure to vaccine, perhaps it is because of rumours circulating.. The fact remains that papers report chaotic scenes before Vaccine centers"
On availability of vaccines, the State Attorney informed the Court that 2.43 lakhs of doses were expected to be administered as of Tuesday, with an inflow of almost 2 lakh persons per day. He also submitted that excess doses were being used and vaccines were not getting wasted.
Recording appreciation for the same and remarking that it augured well for the system, the Court stated, "However, we cannot allow nervous congregation at any of the vaccine centers"
Advocate Ajay M appearing for the National Health Mission and the Kerala Medical Services Corporation submitted that the supply was very slow as compared to demand for vaccines. Along with the State Attorney, he pressed for an impleadment of the Centre.
The Court therefore pointed out that crowding at vaccine centers seems to be because there is an impression that there are not enough vaccinations. The Court also added that there seemed to be grounds for this impression. In this light, the Court called for a report from the state, in light of COVID vaccine guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare which mandated specific requirements for waiting room/area outside vaccine centers, observation rooms as well as provided for maintenance of adequate social distancing guidelines.
Accordingly, the Court directed that matter be listed on May 7.
"We give direction to State Police Chief to ensure personnel are deployed outside vaccination centers. Ensure no force is used, but only empathetic persuasion", the Court underscored.