- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-2: Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States
Vaccination Hesitancy & Mandatory Vaccination
Context: In the wake of Vaccine Hesitancy, three high courts in the country have set off a much needed legal debate around the feasibility of State-mandated persuasive measures to boost inoculation rate.
What is Vaccine Hesitancy?
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) defined vaccine hesitancy as a “delay in acceptance or refusal of vaccination despite the availability of vaccination services”.
Chief reasons for Vaccine Hesitancy
- Lack of trust in safety and efficacy of the vaccine
- Fear of side-effects
- Socio-political notions
- Inconvenience of getting vaccinated
- Absence of incentives
There are no direct judgments of the Supreme Court (SC) on the aspect of mandatory vaccination. However, three High Courts in the country have dealt with the issue and its conflict with fundamental rights & authority of government.
Meghalaya high court disapproves coercion
- Meghalaya government had made it mandatory for shopkeepers, vendors, local taxi drivers and others to get themselves vaccinated before they can resume their businesses. This was challenged before the high court.
- Meghalaya high court has declared that mandatory vaccination affects an individual’s right, choice and liberty significantly more than affecting the general public, and impinges upon the autonomous decision of an individual human being of choosing not to be vaccinated.
- It encouraged the state government to sensitise people in order to facilitate informed decision making particularly in a situation where the beneficiaries are skeptical, susceptible and belonging to vulnerable/marginalised section of the society.
Gauhati high court underlines fundamental rights
- The Gauhati high court held that restrictions imposed by the Mizoram government on movement and work of persons who are yet to get vaccinated for Covid-19 are unconstitutional and arbitrary.
- Such restrictions are violation of right to earn livelihood and right to equality (both unvaccinated & vaccinated with first dose can be infected by virus)
Madras high court bats for public health
- The Madras high court has set about to examine whether a person can refuse to get vaccinated as a matter of right when he or she can prove to be a threat to public health.
- The court left the matter for a detailed examination at an appropriate stage while it implored the state government to try and persuade persons with awareness campaigns
What are the arguments for making Vaccination Mandatory?
- Public Health: In the larger public interest, vaccination can be made compulsory since those not vaccinated are threats to others’ rights to life.
- Right to Life supersedes Right to Freedom: Right to self-determination or bodily autonomy are aspects of right to privacy which is inferior to the right of life of other people.
- Within Domain of Government: It is within the authority of the Centre and states to make vaccination compulsory since the Constitution arms them with the status of parens patriae (parents of the nation).
- No need of incentive: There cannot be a bigger incentive than the government giving vaccines free to citizens where their lives can be saved
Government should begin with “mild sanctions” along with sensitisation to persuade people so as to overcome the Vaccine Hesitancy.
Connecting the dots: