The Supreme Court on Friday said that it cannot cast doubts on Covid-19 vaccines and said that there are “huge merits” of vaccination, The Indian Express reported.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation seeking directions to the Centre to follow up on and record deaths occurring within 30 days of immunisation.

The petitioner claimed that a growing number of deaths and adverse effects after the coronavirus vaccinations has been reported.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing the petitioner, said that there had been about 900 deaths linked to the vaccine across the country at the time when the petition was filed, Live Law reported.

However, Justice DY Chandrachud said that the vaccines may not necessarily be the cause of the deaths.

Gonsalves, however, said that there needs to be a monitoring system to record these deaths. He added that in 2015, the Centre issued guidelines that required health workers to follow up with villages where vaccination was conducted.

The lawyer said that the guidelines were revised in 2020, after which they only provide for passive surveillance, which requires the person or family concerned to file a complaint.

However, Justice Chandrachud said that the revised guidelines provide another channel for tracking serious and minor adverse effects, and that they require peripheral health staff to send monthly progress reports.

“We have to look at the countervailing benefits of vaccination,” the judge said, according to Live Law. “We cannot send a message that there is something wrong with the vaccination. The WHO has spoken in favour of vaccines, countries across the world are doing it!”

The judge said that the country cannot “afford the price of laxity by not vaccinating people”.

The court noted that developed countries, including the United States, have multiple Covid-19 vaccines.

Gonsalves, however, said that these countries have a mechanism for active surveillance, but India does not.

The court asked him to share a copy of the petition with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

In June, the Centre had released data about adverse effects following Covid-19 vaccination. From the beginning of the vaccination drive on January 16 to June 7, a little over 26,000 cases of adverse effects and 488 deaths linked to post-vaccination complications were reported, according to News18.

Adverse events constituted only 0.01% of the total doses administered, and about two out of every 10 lakh vaccinated people died. The health ministry had said that adverse events did not necessarily have a causal relationship with vaccines.