The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice in a petition seeking to constitute an independent expert committee to study the efficacy of the Intra Dermal Rabies Vaccines (IDRV) currently being administered to Humans and Rabies Veterinary Vaccine, administered to dogs in India.
A Bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar issued notice after hearing Advocate Kuriakose Varghese assisted by Advocate V Shyamohan.
The petition has been filed in the backdrop of several persons who were bitten by dogs, succumbing to rabies, despite post-exposure prophylaxis. These deaths have posed several questions regarding the treatment protocol, and more importantly, the efficacy of the vaccines, the plea states.
The plea highlights that as per the National Centre for Disease Control, manufacturing of Rabies vaccine for humans, being a complex process, needs a minimum of three to four months for manufacturing and testing. Shockingly, there have been instances where the vaccine has reached the State within 14 days of manufacture, the plea reveals.
"Non-adherence to the requisite quality checks would be a direct violation of Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India, apart from violations of provisions under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Rules thereunder."
Along with this, the rise in the number of rabies infected dogs is also a matter of concern, the plea points out. This would warrant an enquiry into the quality of anti-rabies vaccines administered to dogs. It is the petitioner's case that eliminating the risk of rabies at its source i.e., dogs, is the most effective measure to curtail the spread of rabies. "Further, there are studies which reveal that even a single dose of vaccine is effective in curbing rabies in dogs."
As per experts, human rabies is a 100% vaccine preventable disease and the vaccines are considered to be "highly effective, safe and tolerated". Perforce, without vaccination, rabies is a fatal disease, the plea adds.
"While improper administration of IDRV is stated to be a possible reason for failure of the medicine in some cases, the recent deaths points towards the very efficacy of the vaccine."
The petition also underscored the importance of training medical staff of how to properly deal with dog bites.
"Moreover, it is necessary that the medical staff be trained adequately to ensure that the National Guidelines for Rabies Prophylaxis, 2019 ('Guidelines') can be adhered to with respect to treatment of dog bite cases. Furthermore, the Guidelines ought to be given wide publicity, especially those relating to wound management, vaccine schedule etc., to prevent high fatality."
Apart from setting up an expert committee, the petitioners also pray for wide publicity and to ensure proper and uniform implementation of the National Guidelines for Rabies Prophylaxis, 2019, with appropriate revisions from time to time as per the latest developments endorsed by WHO.
Case Title: Kerala Pravasi Association through its President Versus Union of India and Anr | W.P.(C) No. 882/2022 X