Covid-19 vaccines are not mandatory, Centre tells Supreme Court
Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh submitted that inoculation is essential to prevent spread of the virus among the population.
The Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that it has not made Covid-19 vaccines mandatory but has only directed states to ensure 100% inoculation, PTI reported.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, made the submission after Additional Advocate General for Tamil Nadu Amit Anand Tiwari told a bench of Justices L Nageshwara Rao and BR Gavai that the Union government had asked the states via notifications to ensure 100% vaccination of the population, according to Live Law.
Mehta said the notifications were only advisories meant to encourage beneficiaries to get vaccinated.
“The Centre has not issued any mandate,” the solicitor general told the Supreme Court. “The stand of the Centre is that it [vaccination] should be 100%, but it is not a mandate.”
The bench was hearing a petition challenging the vaccine mandates issued by some states. The petition, filed by Dr Jacob Puliyel, a former member of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, sought data of clinical trials and adverse effects of Covid-19 vaccines on recipients, Live Law reported.
During an earlier hearing on March 2, Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for Puliyel, had argued that vaccines cannot be made mandatory without clearly demonstrating that unvaccinated people pose any health risk.
What did the states say?
At Tuesday’s hearing, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh justified their stand to make inoculation mandatory for people to access public spaces.
Tiwari told the judges that Tamil Nadu had issued a vaccine mandate to “prevent any serious disease in the population”, PTI reported. He also said that the move serves a larger public interest.
“I have submitted expert reports [on Covid-19 vaccines],” Tiwari added. “Unvaccinated people are the cause of mutation of viruses.”
Tiwari also said that if there is a possibility that the virus will infect others, then the “state government has the power to issue such mandates” on vaccination, PTI reported. “There is enough evidence to show that vaccines are preventing serious disease,” he submitted.
The counsel representing Maharashtra said that the vaccine mandate is a “reasonable restriction fulfilling the tests of proportionality”.
What did vaccine manufacturers say?
Vaccine manufacturers Bharat Biotech Limited and the Serum Institute of India also opposed Puliyel’s plea, saying it was an attempt to encourage vaccine hesitancy among people, PTI reported.
Bharat Biotech’s counsel submitted that the company has published findings of the clinical trials of Covaxin in peer-reviewed journals as well as on its website.
“The submission of the petitioner that the respondent company has not published Phase 3 clinical trial data in a peer reviewed journal is unsubstantiated,” Bharat Biotech’s counsel said.
The counsel for Serum Institute of India said that the petition is unnecessary, PTI reported. “My data is with the regulator,” the company said. “There is no locus for the petitioner. Even under the RTI they have to show there is public interest. My submission is that it is an infructuous petition.”
The Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court that as of March 13, over 180 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines had been administered in the country. The government said that 77,314 adverse events have been reported, which adds up to 0.004%, PTI reported.