File Photograph: Police Bazaar in Shillong

The Meghalaya government has directed all its employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 before December 23, in the wake of a Meghalaya high court order on December 6 directing the state to adopt an aggressive policy in undertaking awareness drives and trying to convince people to vaccinate themselves.

In its order, chief secretary Rebecca Vanessa Suchiang stated that all government employees who are yet to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are to get themselves vaccinated before December 23.

“In the event that they are not eligible due to medical reasons, the District AEFI (Adverse Events Following Immunization) Committee which is present in all districts will review their case. Based on the committee’s recommendations and certification only an individual may be exempted from taking the COVID vaccine,” the order specified.

The chief secretary also directed all government departments to follow this protocol with immediate effect.

“It appears that there are reservations in certain quarters regarding vaccination. The state should adopt an aggressive policy in undertaking awareness drives and trying to convince people to vaccinate themselves, not only for their own benefit, but also for the protection of others,” court had observed during the course of hearing a PIL on December 6.

The Meghalaya high court has said that “the state should not relent on the vaccination drive or trying to persuade people to take the vaccination or even provide for disincentives upon refusal.”

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Wanlura Diengdoh said: “It may serve the state well if the district councils and other authorities, including the Meghalaya State Legal Services Authority, also undertake a campaign to educate people and convince them to take the vaccination”.

“It will also be open to the state to formulate rules or guidelines so that persons unwilling to take vaccination do not expose themselves to others,” the court ruled and listed the matter for further hearing on February 1, 2022.

Meanwhile, six COVID-19 cases added up to 118 active cases and 14 more cases of recovery surged the number of recovered cases to 83148 on December 18 in the state, which has so far registered 84744 confirmed cases, including 1478 cases of fatality.

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