The Supreme Court has upheld the right of an individual against forcible vaccination and the government’s COVID-19 vaccination policy to protect communitarian health.
Right not to get vaccinated
- The bench upheld the right to bodily integrity and personal autonomy of an individual in the light of vaccines and other public health measures.
- Bodily integrity is protected under Article 21 (right to life) of the Constitution and no individual can be forced to be vaccinated.
- The court struck a balance between individual right to bodily integrity and refuse treatment with the government’s concern for public health.
- When the issue is extended to “communitarian health”, the government was indeed “entitled to regulate issues”.
- But its right to regulate by imposing limits to individual rights was open to judicial scrutiny.
What is vaccine hesitancy:
- The reluctance of people to receive safe and recommended available vaccines is known as ‘vaccine hesitancy’.
- This was already a growing concern before the COVID-19 pandemic. Major reasons are:
- Fake news: The conspiracy theories on social media have brought negative publicity for vaccination. These seem to have created propaganda against the vaccines.
- Malfunctions: The sensational highlighting of vaccine fatalities event by the media is driving vaccine hesitancy to some extent.
- Myths and beliefs: In some places radical religious factors have driven vaccine hesitancy resulting in myth against vaccines. This is also a leading factor of prevalence of Polio in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Policy fluctuations: The frequent flip-flops by governments on the vaccination issue have resulted in a low trust among the general populace regarding vaccination.
- With no “one-size-fits-all” solution to vaccine hesitancy, contextualised and curated approaches are crucial.
- Dispelling misinformation: There is the need to dispel all misinformation – unscientific, incorrect and unsubstantiated.
- Counselling: WHO has put forth the BeSD (behavioural and social drivers) vaccination model, which emphasises “motivation” as the vanguard of human psychology during a vaccination drive.
- Standard safeguards: The fact that vaccines meet the necessary safety standards set by the various organizations needs to be highlighted.
- Vaccine equality: There is the need to ensure access of affordable, quality and timely vaccines to all.
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