New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday gave the Centre time till Saturday, to respond to a petition challenging the states’ vaccine mandate for children aged between 15 and 18 years.
A bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai was hearing a petition filed by Jacob Puliyel, former member of the national technical advisory group on immunization, who termed the states’ vaccine mandate as “unethical” as children were not allowed to give their consent for taking the jab and parents were unable to make an informed decision in the absence of data on vaccine trials.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Prashant Bhushan referred to data on states’ refusal to provide ration, access to public services and restricting the right to work of citizens who were not vaccinated. He also pointed out the decisions of the Haryana and Andhra Pradesh government making vaccination compulsory for children.
These were in addition to communications issued by the ministry of women and child development (MWCD) mandating vaccination for children in child care institutes and another by Council for Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) mandating vaccination for students appearing for examinations.
The petition also said that data from various countries where children in the concerned age group were inoculated showed greater incidence of myocarditis (heart inflammation) due to mRNA vaccines.
“Data from Israel shows that this risk for children is about 1 in 6000. Considering this, many European countries recently stopped the use of the Moderna vaccine for those under 30,” Bhushan said.
Presently, the Centre is administering Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, Zydus Cadila’s ZyCoV-D and Biological E’s Corbevax to children in the above age group.
The petitioner’s counsel sought data on clinical trials conducted on Covaxin and Zydus Cadilla vaccine which received emergency use approval in August last year.
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati said: “Such tall claims have been made on the vaccination given to children and how mRNA vaccines cause myocarditis. We are only administering Covaxin to children which is an inactivated virus and not a mRNA vaccine.”
The Centre has not made vaccination compulsory for children or adults, Bhati said, adding that 96.8% of people in the country have been administered the first dose and nearly 80% have received the second dose. “The whole aspect of challenging the vaccination policy has paled into insignificance with 96% already vaccinated,” the ASG said.
To this, the bench said: “The petitioner has not challenged the vaccination programme but mandatory vaccination. He says that states are issuing such mandates. We have to see whether this policy is based on relevant data or if it is arbitrarily decided.”
The bench gave the Union government time till Saturday to file an affidavit and posted the matter for further hearing on Tuesday.