16 Jan 2022 4:12 PM GMT
The Central Government has made it clear before the Supreme Court that there is no COVID-19 vaccination mandate and that vaccination is not mandatory.Responding to a plea seeking ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities, the Central Government has submitted before the Supreme Court of India that its guidelines do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining...
The Central Government has made it clear before the Supreme Court that there is no COVID-19 vaccination mandate and that vaccination is not mandatory.
Responding to a plea seeking ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities, the Central Government has submitted before the Supreme Court of India that its guidelines do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining consent of the concerned individual.
While emphasising that Covid-19 vaccination is in larger public interest and it has been duly advised, advertised and communicated through various print and social media platforms that all citizens should get vaccinated, the Government has stated that no person can be forced to be vaccinated against their wishes.
The relevant extracts from the affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare are :
"It is humbly submitted that the direction and guidelines released by Government of India and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining consent of the concerned individual. It is further humbly submitted that vaccination for COVID-19 is of larger public interest in view of the ongoing pandemic situation. It is duly advised, advertised and communicated through various print and social media platforms that all citizens should get vaccinated and systems and processes have been designed to facilitate the same. However, no person can be forced to be vaccinated against their wishes.
It is most respectfully submitted that the Government of India has not issued any SOPs which make carrying of vaccination certificate mandatory for any purpose.
Counselling before vaccination: It is humbly submitted that Government of India has formulated Operational Guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination. As per these Guidelines, all beneficiaries are to be informed about adverse events which may occur after COVID-19 vaccine."
The Union of India has made the submissions through an affidavit filed pursuant to Supreme Court's directions on December 3, 2021, whereby it had granted liberty to the petitioners to formulate concrete suggestions to strengthen the existing framework for protecting the disabled citizens in ensuring proper access to Covid 19 vaccination and had asked the Union Government to consider the same.
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The Union of India has informed the Court that a total of 23678 doses have been administered to disabled persons who have voluntarily chosen to be identified as such by using their Unique Disability ID Card/Disability Certificate for registration at the time of their vaccination.
Responding to the petitioner's submissions regarding providing exemption from producing vaccination certificates for persons with disabilities, the Government has stated that it has not issued any SOPs which make carrying of vaccination certificates mandatory for any purpose
In response to suggestions regarding Care providers being treated as essential workers, the Centre has submitted that the Government of India in its letter dated 22.09.2021 has advised all States and UTs to vaccinate bedridden or beneficiaries with extremely restricted mobility or disability and/or special needs along with their care givers at their place of residence using mobile vaccination teams.
In response to the suggestion regarding Co-WIN app and portal being made fully accessible, the Government of India has submitted that it is already implementing features in Co-WIN portal to make it more accessible to persons with disabilities.
It has been submitted that the Government of India has formulated Operational Guidelines for COVID-19 vaccination, according to which all beneficiaries are to be informed about adverse events which may occur after COVID-19 vaccine.
With regard to suggestions regarding Exemption from masks/face-cover, the Government of India has stated that the practice of using masks/face cover is in line with the recommendation of the W.H.O (World Health Organisation) and other prominent public health agencies globally. Therefore, in the larger public interest, it is advisable that the use of masks or face covers be universally followed.
The Union of India has submitted the Adverse Event Following Immunisation (AEFIs) are monitored through a well-structured and robust AEFI surveillance system which has stood the test of time. As per the AEFI surveillance guidelines for COVID-19 vaccine, any suspected adverse events, following COVID-19 vaccine may be reported by the vaccine recipient or his/her caregiver on COWIN portal
The Government has also informed the Court that a grievance redressal mechanism already exists where all grievances, including those received from persons with disabilities, are redressed in a timely manner. In addition, nodal officers in each State have been advised to look into grievance redressal for persons with disabilities in particular.
Responding to suggestions regarding disability under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Government has stated that the scope of the National COVID-19 vaccination programme is to vaccinate all eligible population, including all persons with different types of disabilities, therefore the definition of disability under the act and the contours thereof are immaterial.
Further, it has been submitted that the scope of the National COVID-19 Vaccination Programme is to facilitate self-registration and vaccination of all eligible population in the shortest possible time, taking into consideration the needs of vulnerable sections of society. The framework for data collection/recording on Co-WIN portal is decided by technical groups such as NEGVAC and NTAGI based on scientific necessity.
Responding to suggestion regarding COVID-19 vaccination information being made available in accessible/disabled-friendly formats and vernacular languages, the Centre has submitted that the Co-WIN public interface is available in 11 regional languages in addition to English, and open files of awareness materials have been shared with the States for Translation, publication and dissemination in any language
The Centre has submitted that information on all aspects of COVID-19 vaccination programme is disseminated by Government of India and State/UTs through websites, print media, AV radio and television and also through other social media platforms. The Har Ghar Dastak Campaign in particular is a pan India campaign which will increase this reach even further, and the Ministry has regularly promoted the National helpline number 1075 for all COVID-19 related queries.
The Centre has also submitted that the provisions have been made for persons who do not have any of the prescribed ID cards for availing Covid-19 vaccinations by following Facilitated Cohort Registration process on Co-WIN.
Case Title: Evara Foundation v. Union Of India And Ors
Click here to read/download the affidavit