The High Court has ordered the government to decide in 72 hours whether pregnant women would be allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
After the hearing of a writ petition for prioritising pregnant women for vaccination, a virtual High Court bench of Justice M Enayetur Rahim issued a verbal order on Monday, asking the attorney general to contact the concerned ministries and government offices.
Advocate Mohmmad Humayun Kabir Pallab represented the petitioners, while Deputy Attorney General Samarendra Nath Biswas and Bipul Bagmar were the state counsels.
“Although the health minister told the press yesterday (Sunday) it would decide on vaccinations for pregnant women, I believe a specific decision should be made in 72 hours,” the judge told the deputy attorney general.
“Please tell the attorney general to contact the Directorate General of Health Services and the National Advisory Committee on Coronavirus, asking them to reach a decision soon. We’re not issuing a formal order as the minister already said they are working on it.”
Deputy Attorney General Samarendra Nath Biswas said he would inform the attorney general about the issue right after court proceedings ended. The court then adjourned the hearing.
“The court has not issued any formal order and the case was held over. The judge has asked me to inform the attorney general, as the high-ups in government are already considering vaccinating pregnant women,” Biswas told bdnews24.com.
Four Supreme Court lawyers served a legal notice to the health secretary, principal secretary, DGHS director and IEDCR director asking them to arrange for the immunisation of pregnant women.
As there was no response, a writ petition was filed on Jul 31 to the High Court. The petitioners include a pregnant woman, who is a lawyer. The petition sought an order prioritising pregnant women among COVID vaccine recipients.
When Bangladesh rolled out its immunisation drive in February, the Ministry of Health decided to keep pregnant women off the list of recipients as the vaccines had not been tested on the demographic in a clinical setting.
As many as 3.5 million women become pregnant across Bangladesh each year. These women aren’t receiving the vaccine for now, according to the health ministry.
Some countries around the world have started to immunise pregnant women against COVID-19, and, as of now, no adverse effects have been reported.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation in the UK and Australia’s Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation have suggested that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as it reduces risks.
Also, the World Health Organization said pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine as the benefits surpass the adverse effects.