The Delhi High Court yesterday stayed the Measles Rubella(MR) Vaccination Campaign of the Delhi Government, which mandated compulsory vaccination on children even without consent of their parents or guardians.
The order was passed in a petition filed by six children through their parents, challenging the direction issued by the Delhi Government on December 19 to all schools across Delhi and NCR region to compulsorily conduct the vaccination program on children between the age of 9 months to 15 years at their premises on different dates starting 16th January 2019.
According to the petitioners the Delhi Government's direction is contrary to the instructions of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which stated that the vaccine would not be forcibly injected into the children without informed consent of parents.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru stayed the directions, after finding prima facie merit in the petitioners' case. The Court held that vaccination can be given only with the informed consent of parents or guardians. It further directed the Government to issue advertisements through various modes, including national dailies, explaining the vaccine and its benefits, to enable persons to give informed consent. The matter has been posted next on January 21.
The petitioners' counsel Abhinav Mukherjee argued that forcible vaccination without informed consent violates 'bodily autonomy' and 'informational privacy', which are recongized to be facets of the fundamental right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India as per the SC decision in Puttaswamy case.
"It is settled principle that choice of an individual, even in cases of life-saving medical treatment, is an inextricable part of dignity which ought to be protected… The law and procedure, authorising any kind of interference with personal liberty and right to privacy, must also be right, just and fair and not arbitrary, fanciful and oppressive," the petition said.
The petition also highlighted newsreports regarding deaths of children in Gujarat, Punjab, Maharashtra and UP in 2018 after the administration of the new MR vaccine. After such reports, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has directed the officials to immediately stop certain batches of the vaccine. The new MR vaccine is in addition to the already prevalent Measles Mumps Rubella(MMR) vaccine, which is being administered for past several years. No information has been provided regarding the need for "additional dose" of vaccine, stated the petitioners.In this backdrop, the students claimed that adequate information about the clinical trials and side effects of the new vaccine should be supplied to quell the genuine apprehensions regarding its safety and efficacy.