The High Court of Sikkim has said the COVID-19 vaccination programme is a cause of concern for the state despite having a small population of 7 lakh. The court's observation came while hearing a petition on Covid management.
The high court also expressed concern over the absence of any viral research and diagnostic laboratory in three districts of Sikkim. The state has only one government-sanctioned laboratory of this kind at STNM Hospital in state capital Gangtok. A private lab is with the Central Referral Hospital, also located in the state capital, which is in East Sikkim district.
"The vaccination programme is a cause of concern for the state. Although the population of the entire state stands at a meagre number of approximately 7 lakh, we are informed that presently vaccines are not available for the 18-44 age group whose population reportedly stands at 2,90,000 only," a division bench of Justices Meenakshi Madan Rai and Bhaskar Raj Pradhan said.
"The total requirement of vaccines for this age group stands at 5,80,000 only. Evidently, the state-respondents expect 15,230 vaccines to be made available by this month to the STNM Hospital, while learned counsel TR Barfungpa... submits that 24,000 vaccines are expected in the CRH by next week," the court said.
"Considering the entire population of the state, a meagre amount of 14 lakh vaccines would be the approximate requirement of the state. Thus, we trust that the state-respondents shall make untiring and proactive efforts to obtain the entire number of requisite doses so that the population of the state can be vaccinated at the earliest," the high court said.
"This becomes imperative in view of the peculiar circumstances of the state inasmuch as the footfall of tourists sometimes outnumbers residents of a particular town and the availability of the medical infrastructure or the lack of it has to be taken into consideration..." the high court said.
"We deem it relevant to record that VRDL facility is required in each district of Sikkim, besides, bearing in mind the onset of monsoon and the related consequence of landslides and inaccessibility of one district from the other, a sample collected from the West District for testing cannot be left to the vagaries of nature should there be road blocks to the South District. Similarly, such dependency should not be created for the North District or the East District for the same reasons," it said.