[Vaccine Mandate] States support vaccine mandate, Vaccine manufacturers oppose vaccine trial data disclosure before Supreme Court

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In Advocate Prashant Bhushan's Public Interest Litigation against vaccine mandate, several States on Tuesday have supported the vaccination mandated imposed by the Government. States Including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh argued that orders mandating vaccination for accessing the public services are justified and are in the public interest.

Whereas, over the issue of releasing data related to vaccine trials, Vaccine Manufacturers, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India opposed the prayer of releasing data & said that the efficacy of the vaccine has been established, in addition to this, the data is with the regulator “where it is supposed to be” & that there is no locus for the petitioners.

A bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai concluded the hearing in the matter today.

The Court was hearing a PIL alleging that vaccines are being administered to the public without testing safety and that adequate data is not being disclosed to the public.

Additional Advocate General Amit Anand Tiwari appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu submitted that the State is empowered to make mandates, like those who are not vaccinated will not be able to access the public places.

"The mandate is in the larger public interest, the vaccination also helps in reducing the chances of getting virus and getting hospitals. Vaccinated people also do not mutate the virus further," Tiwari added.

Tiwari referring to the situation during the Second wave of Covid-19 submitted that "the Hospitals were flooded, am I as a State not eligible to take into account that has taken adverse affect on my State's medical condition? There is data to show that more the people are vaccinated, the lesser the chances of the virus."

In addition to this, Advocate Rahul Chitnis appearing for the State of Maharashtra submitted that maintaining 6 feet distance and putting up masks all the time becomes really difficult & for that reason, this mandate of vaccine is necessary. Chitnis further added that the state of Maharashtra has not mandated it but has said that certain services will be denied.

"People can say that I can take care of my own life, but taking an example of Mumbai Local, people walk on railway tracks stating I'll take care, we cannot allow that, it may also affect people traveling in the train," Chitnis added.

Whereas, Senior Advocate Guru Krishna Kumar appearing for Bharat Biotech submitted that, "We have a track record, I was established in 1996, I have a record of delivering 4 billion vaccines in different countries, it is developed in collaboration with ICMR."

“We are looking at one of a kind problem that mankind has faced," Kumar added.

In furtherance to this, Counsel appearing for the Serum Institute of India submitted that the data is with the regulator & the Institute has given an undertaking to the individuals that no data will be disclosed except with the regulator.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta clarified that there is no mandate from the side of the Central Government. The stand of the centre is that the vaccination should be 100% but it is not a mandate, Mehta added.

However, Bhushan argued that mere assertion by the Government is not sufficient, "the Solicitor said that I'm basing my case on the basis of some people's opinions, I'm not doing that, my case is on the basis of Peer-reviewed Journals, and stand taken by other countries."

"The person who already had the infection is in a better position than any person who has been vaccinated and this point cannot be denied by anyone in this world," Bhushan added.

Referring to the Right to Information on getting the trial data released in public, Bhushan submitted that RTI came after several Judgments of this Court, all these judgments said that the Right to Information is a fundamental right in a democratic society like ours.

Whereas, if this argument is accepted that merely because the government has put in place a good system the data cannot be shared, even then, the SC has said that the right to information is a fundamental right and personal data may be redacted.

Bhushan submitted before the Supreme Court that likewise, the US Court in the Pfizer case directed the release of vaccine trial data, the Central Government may be directed to redact the individual names and release the data related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

"US Court in the Pfizer case also told that you redact the names and that is why it is now being published at a rate of 55,000 pages/ month as the details need to be redacted, links I can share, people are now pointing out the issues. No issue of privacy, just redact," Bhushan added.

Earlier, SG Mehta submitted before the Supreme Court that a person’s right not to be infected will outweigh another person's right to not get vaccinated.

Whereas, Bhushan while arguing against the compulsory vaccine mandate had submitted that “It is unstick and irresponsible to use such untested vaccines on children. They are hardly affected by COVID. Chances of children dying of vaccine itself are more than chances of the child dying due to COVID.”

Bhushan had further argued that some schools are mandating not only the children to get vaccinated but are also forcing the parents to be vaccinated. On vaccination for children, Bhushan submitted that vaccines can cause Myocarditis in children. He argued that one in 1000 children can get Myocarditis because of the vaccination, however, the chances of children becoming seriously ill because of COVID is one in a lakh.

Case title: Jacob Puliyel Vs Union of India & Ors.