The Supreme Court has adjourned the PIL seeking permission for 7 crore Indians administered Covaxin to be administered any other vaccine approved by the WHO since the petitioner is unable to visit abroad since the same is yet to be okayed by WHO.
The bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice B.V. Nagarathna observed that it will wait till post-Diwali for WHO approval before moving ahead with any of the directions sought in the PIL. The bench observed that it cannot allow the administration of vaccines again and risk the lives of people without any concrete substance or study.
The petition states that prior to May 1, 2021, Indian citizens were eligible for administering vaccination in Phases I and II of the vaccination campaign and did not have a choice to choose one particular vaccine. Now, people who have been vaccinated with Covaxin are unable to travel to other countries for any emergency reasons, be it personal, educational, or any medical emergency since such nations are not considering Covaxin to be at par with other vaccines like Covishield, Pfizer, etc. Thereby, not allowing people vaccinated with Covaxin to travel abroad.
The petitioner is also questioning the Central Government’s actions in launching both Covishield and Covaxin for use in India on the same day, i.e., on 16.01.2021, when Covaxin had only recently completed phase-II trials and was in the third phase of trials, with no conclusive efficacy data other than interim efficacy analysis.
The petition 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 is 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.”
The petitioner has prayed before the Apex Court to direct the Ministry of Home Affairs to allow those administered with Covaxin to receive two doses of Covishield in addition until Covaxin gets WHO approval, which does not appear to be in sight. According to recent statements by Bharat Biotech International Ltd, WHO has requested additional information from the manufacturer.
Further, the petitioner seeks answers from the Centre’s concerned departments to issue and release official data, records, timelines, and reasons for the delay in the approval of Covaxin developed and manufactured by Bharat Biotech and not to detain people who voluntarily, at their own expense and risk, seeks to get administered with Covishield even after receiving two doses of Covaxin.
The petition further prays,
Reasons for giving approval to Covaxin vaccine for administration to persons in India pending the results of third phase trials of the same; 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; 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.
The petitioner, Kartik Seth, is a Supreme Court advocate and has been waiting for WHO approval in order to fly to the United Kingdom with his elderly parents to see and meet his paternal uncle and aunt, both of whom are in their mid-80s. The petitioners’ parents are 65 and 71 years old, respectively. It is extremely difficult and uncomfortable for the petitioner to cater with the present situation.