“More than 50% population vaccinated, your plea may promote vaccine hesitancy”: Supreme Court plea filed through Prashant Bhushan’s seeking disclosure of clinical trials

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Supreme Court today, while hearing a plea seeking disclosure of data related to vaccine trials and restraining coercive action on not taking vaccine, issued notice to the Centre.

The bench calling it “seminal issue of public importance”, raised apprehensions on prayers sought by the petitioner, adding that it would like to hear the petitioner on the issue of personal autonomy.

“More than 50% of population has been vaccinated till now, will this not raise apprehension in their mind regarding credibility of the vaccine? Do you really think it is in Public Interest?,” the bench asked.

A Division bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Rao, issuing notice returnable 4 weeks, said,

“We appreciate your argument but our apprehension is that any investigation into this will increase doubts in the minds of people. We are not out of this yet. 4 Lakh active cases we still have. We also have to look into larger interest of the people.

You have raised seminal issues, we will consider it.”

Submissions were made by Advocate Prashant Bhushan for the petitioner.

“This is the first time in history - you are unrolling a universal vaccination program without completing trials or placing clinical data in public domain,” Mr Bhushan submitted.

It was clarified that prayers sought are not intended to stop the vaccination drive, but only, to allow citizens to give an informed consent to it. Aspect of “personal autonomy” is signing up for vaccination was focussed.

On the argument that never has such thing occurred in the past, the bench said that the pandemic itself is something which the world did not see for the past 100 years and that unprecedented times call for an unprecedented action.

“In 1976, the US embarked on a universal vaccination programme for swine flu and at that time it was found that people getting vaccinated develop serious neurological problems. 34 million people in the US, which was 15% of the population, were found to have developed serious neurological symptoms and it was found that this fact was kept hidden –

As a consequence entire vaccination had to be stopped,” added Mr. Bhushan.

The petitioner relies on WHO statement as per which when data is not released it means that doctors, patients and medical regulators cannot make “informed decisions” about which treatments are best. Jayantilal Mistry verdict of 2015 is further relied to submit that Right to Access Information is a Fundamental Right of the Citizens.

“The petitioner recognises that Covid is a public health emergency and that such an emergency may require emergency use authorisations of vaccines which may not yet have been adequately tested. However, that should not mean that all information and data of relevance to the efficacy or side effects of the vaccines which have been given such approval, should not be made publicly available, especially when the vaccines are being used in a universal immunisation programme. Though emergency authorisation of the vaccines may be advisable in the present situation, it does not however mean that these vaccines can be forced upon people, especially without all relevant data being available for independent public and scientific scrutiny. The present petition therefore should not be understood to be a petition challenging the present Covid vaccination programme,” the petition states.

Case Title: Jacob Puliyel v. Union of Indi