Can a citizen refuse to take vaccine as a matter of right?

IMAGE: A beneficiary above the age of 18 receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination camp in Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

“It is doubtful whether the right to refuse to take the vaccine can be exercised in such circumstances,” the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said.

“Vaccinating oneself may not only be to protect oneself but also in the larger interest of public health.”

“When such larger interest of public health comes into play and it is possible that a person who has not taken the vaccine may not reveal any symptoms but still be a silent carrier, it is doubtful whether the right to refuse to take the vaccine can be exercised in such circumstances,” the bench explained.

 

The explanation followed a submission from the state that there is an element of reluctance in some quarters to take the covid vaccine.

The bench said that the state should try and persuade them with awareness campaigns and scientific data to indicate the efficacy of the vaccines and the indispensable nature thereof in dealing with the present pandemic.

Though the June 29 status report indicates appropriate measures having been taken or planned to be taken at rehabilitation homes, mental care centres and the like, as prayed for by advocate Karpagam, the petitioner, the bench felt that there does not appear to be a plan in place for persons with disabilities, who are homebound and do not have the ability or resources to travel, particularly in the semi-urban and rural areas.

It, however, hoped all persons with disabilities, irrespective of status and resources, are taken care of by the state in due course.

The matter stands adjourned till July 28.

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