“We’ll wait for WHO’s response”: Supreme Court in plea seeking Covishield vaccine for those fully vaccinated with Covaxin

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The Supreme Court on Friday has said that it will wait for the response of the World Health Organization over COVAXIN before going ahead with the petition seeking answers from the Government of India and to issue directions with respect to permission to individuals who have been fully vaccinated with COVAXIN and desire to get vaccinated with Covishield after a lapse of three months.

A divisional bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna said that "We read in the news, that an application has been filed before WHO, let us sit over it and wait for the response."

The plea has been filed by practicing Advocate in Supreme Court, Kartik Seth, who stated that under the present scenario, a person is not allowed/permitted to get vaccinated with Covishield by registering on the official website of the Government of India, “COWIN” after having been fully vaccinated with COVAXIN.

Advocate Kartik Seth appearing in person submitted that everyday there are students and people travelling outside and they are being denied entry.

However, Justice Chandrachud said that "How can we allow a direction to administer another vaccine at their own, we cannot do this," while hearing the petition.

The plea averred that there has been a major latent lacuna in the entire vaccination system across the country which involves a lack of awareness attributable to the central government mainly.

“The respondents, at the time of rolling out of COVAXIN for use in the market, failed to make the public aware that it was not approved by the WHO and that it had not even submitted an application before WHO for approval which was submitted as late as in April, 2021. It was only in May, 2021 (five months after the commencement of vaccination drive) that it rolled out into the news that several nations are not allowing entry of people vaccinated with vaccines other than those enlisted in WHO’s emergency use list,” stated the plea.

While talking about another vaccine that is Pfizer in his plea the petitioner contended that it was granted emergency use authorisation by WHO on December 31, 2020 and the manufacturers of Pfizer were inclined to enter into the Indian market, however entry of the same met with various hurdles created by the Government of India and eventually it was not allowed by the Government of India for reasons best known to themselves despite the fact that Pfizer had WHO approval and was proven as highly effective vaccine.

Thus, the petitioner has prayed for the following reliefs in his plea –

A. Issue an appropriate writ in the nature of mandamus or any other writ directing the concerned departments of the Respondents to issue and release official data, record, timeline and reasons of delay in approval of COVAXIN vaccine developed and manufactured by Respondent No. 5;

B. Issue an appropriate writ in the nature of mandamus or any other writ directing the concerned departments of the Respondents to state the reason for giving approval to COVAXIN vaccine for administration to persons in India pending the results of third phase trials of the same;

C. Issue an appropriate writ to the Respondents No. 5 and 6 to publish actual data and records submitted to the WHO for the purpose of obtaining approval of WHO in favour of COVAXIN vaccine and issue a statement with reasons in detail delaying the approval of COVAXIN vaccine;

D. Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus or any other appropriate writ to the Respondents directing them to not restrain those 36 who voluntarily, at their own costs and risk wish to get Covishield administered to them after having already received two doses of COVAXIN;

E. Issue a writ in the nature of mandamus or any other appropriate writ directing the Respondents No. 1 and 2 to issue a revised Standard of Procedure and guidelines allowing re-vaccination of fully vaccinated persons with another vaccine on voluntary payment of the person at his own risks and costs.

Case Title: Kartik Seth v Union of India