A petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking ease of access to vaccination for persons with disabilities. Responding to that petition, the central government has made it clear before the Supreme Court that COVID-19 vaccination is a must but there is no mandate, no one can be vaccinated without their consent and vaccination is not mandatory.
We know that life has become disturbed due to the arrival of the covid-19 disease, so to save people from this disease, covid-19 vaccination is going on in the public interest and efforts are being made for this. All citizens are being motivated to get vaccinated through social media, advertisements, advisories, and many more programs. But no one can force any person. He should get vaccinated of his own will.
Here are the relevant excerpts from the affidavit filed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:
“It is humbly informed to all that as per the guidelines issued by the Government of India and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, no one can be vaccinated forcibly without obtaining the consent of the individual and vaccination is in the interest of all.”
In view of the dire situation of this pandemic, people have been informed through advertisements, various print and social media platforms that all citizens should get vaccinated as it is in their interest. Many systems and procedures have been designed to facilitate this but no person can be forced to have a vaccination against his will.
It is most respectfully stated that the Government of India has not issued any SOPS which makes vaccination certificates mandatory for any purpose.
Also, we should know about the vaccine before getting it, what can happen after taking it and whether it is safe or not, therefore the Government of India has prepared operational guidelines
The Central Government, in an affidavit filed on December 3, 2021, made submissions in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court, according to which the petitioner was given liberty to make rules to ensure proper access and strengthen the existing framework for the protection of citizens.
The Union of India has told the Court that so far a total of 23678 doses have been administered to persons with disabilities who have voluntarily registered for vaccination using their unique Disability ID Card/Disability Certificate.
In response to the submissions of the petitioner on the plea that persons with disabilities should not produce vaccination certificates, the Government has stated that it has not issued any SOP which makes it mandatory to carry vaccination certificates for any purpose.
In response to the suggestions regarding care providers, the Centre has submitted that the Government of India in its letter dated 22.09.2021 has advised all States and UTs to avoid bed-ridden or extremely restricted mobility or disability and/or special Vaccinate the beneficiaries.
In response to the suggestion to facilitate the Co-Win App and Portal, the Government of India has stated that it is already implementing the features in the Co-Win Portal for Persons with Disabilities and the Government of India has made operational. Guidelines for COVID-19 Vaccination, as per which all beneficiaries are to be informed about the adverse events occurring after COVID-19
With regard to exemption from masks/face-covers, the Government of India’s practice of using masks/face covers is in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other major public health agencies globally. Therefore it is advised to everyone to follow the use of mask or face cover universally as it is in your own interest.
Union of India stated that Adverse Event Immunization (AEFI) monitoring is done under a well-rousted AEFI surveillance system. As per AEFI’s Surveillance Guidelines for COVID-19 Vaccine, any suspicious event following a COVID 19 Vaccine can be reported by the vaccine recipient or his/her caregiver on the COWIN portal.
The Government has also informed the Court that a grievance redressed mechanism is already in place where all complaints received from persons with disabilities are redressed in time. In addition, the nodal officers in each state have been advised to focus on grievances redressed for specially-abled persons.
Responding to the relation of disability as per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, the government has stated that the National COVID-19 Immunization Program aims to vaccinate all types of persons along with different types of disabilities, hence the definition of disability Its outline is immaterial as per the Act 2016.
And it is also submitted that the National COVID-19 Immunization aims to facilitate self-registration and immunization of all eligible populations in the shortest possible time, taking care of the needs of the weaker sections of the society.
The data collection/recording pattern on the Co-WIN portal is decided based on the scientific need with the help of technical groups like NEGAC and NTAGI.
Stating that the COVID-19 vaccination information is being made available in accessible/disabled-friendly formats and local languages, the Central Government said that Co-Win is available in 11 regional languages other than English, translating the material into any language, published and shared with the states for dissemination.
The Central also said that all information on the COVID-19 vaccination schedule is disseminated by the Government of India and the States/UTs through websites, media, and television. “Har Ghar Dastak Abhiyan” is a pan-India campaign in particular which will help in increasing this reach and Ministry has regularly given National Helpline number 1075 for all COVID-19 related queries.
The Central Government has also stated that provisions have been made for such persons who do not present any prescribed ID card to avail the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination by following the convenient group registration process on co-win.