The Centre has informed Supreme Court that COVID-19 vaccination is of larger public interest in view of the ongoing pandemic situation but no person can be forced to be vaccinated against their wishes.
The guidelines issued by the Union Health Ministry do not envisage forcible vaccination without obtaining the consent of an individual, said the Centre.
The response of the Central government came on a PIL seeking priority for COVID-19 vaccination for persons with disabilities at their place of residence since they face a higher risk of being impacted by COVID-19.
The apex court will take up the matter for hearing today (January 17, 2022).
“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 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,” the affidavit of Centre stated.
Carrying vaccination certificate not mandatory
On the issue of exempting persons with disabilities from producing vaccination certificates, the Centre said that it has not issued any SOP that makes it mandatory to carry the vaccination certificate for any purpose.
The Central government has informed the top court that a total of 23,678 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.
The government of India in its letter dated September 22, 2021, has advised all States and Union Territories to vaccinate bedridden or beneficiaries with extremely restricted mobility or disability and/or special needs along with their caregivers at their place of residence using mobile vaccination teams, it added.
The government also responded to the suggestion regarding the Co-WIN app and portal being made fully accessible saying it is already implementing features in the Co-WIN portal to make it more accessible to persons with disabilities.
The plea filed by Evara Foundation, a disability rights organization, had sought direction to bring focus upon the steps which are required to ensure ease of access to vaccination to persons with disabilities in order to protect them as well against COVID-19.
The plea had contended that in one of the press releases by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), it has said that vaccination should happen at doorsteps for persons with disabilities. The plea had also stated that scheduling an appointment at a particular vaccination centre is a highly technical process and persons with disabilities are facing difficulties in getting vaccinated.
Seeking vaccination at doorsteps for persons with disabilities and their caregivers, the plea had said visiting vaccination centres amid lockdowns in various States is also a challenging task for such persons.