New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: The Centre on Saturday defended its 'Liberalised and Accelerated' COVID-19 vaccination strategy that aims to inoculate those in the age group of 18 to 44 years and dismissed media reports alleging vaccine inequity in the country, calling them "baseless".

In a press release, the Centre reiterated that its policy, which came into effect on May 1, envisages a larger role for the private sector, reducing the "operational stress" on COVID-19 vaccination facilities run by the government.

It further said that private hospitals were given over 1.20 crore vaccine doses in June. These private hospitals are not limited to the bigger metros but also from tier II and III cities across different states and union territories (UTs), it noted.

"The Union Health Ministry is working closely with all States and UTs to make the COVID-19 Vaccination drive a success. The States with less number of private hospitals have been requested to review the status in the states and list out the better performing hospitals under AB-PMJAY and State specific insurance schemes, keeping a geographical spread in mind and encouraging them to get in agreement with the vaccine manufacturers," it said.

"Further a regular communication is also being done with all states and UTs informing them on the vaccines received by the private hospitals against the contracted doses so that their performance is closely monitored by the states and districts," it added.

The Centre's reply comes days after the Supreme Court criticised India's COVID-19 vaccination drive, calling it "arbitrary and irrational" for allowing states and private hospitals to charge those in the 18-44 age group while the jabs were offered free for groups in the first two phases.

Ordering a review, the top court said that in grappling with the second wave of the COVID pandemic, it does not intend to second-guess the wisdom of the executive when it chooses between two competing and efficacious policy measures.

"Constitution does not envisage courts to be silent spectators when constitutional rights of citizens are infringed by executive policies," the apex court noted.

India's COVID-19 vaccination drive was launched in January after the government gave emergency use authorisation to Covishield and Covaxin. Later in March, the drive was expanded for people above 45 years. On May 2, the third phase of the drive was launched, allowing people above the age of 18 years to get vaccinated.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma