Even as the Election Commission asked the chief secretaries of five poll-bound states to “accelerate” the pace of Covid-19 vaccination, the Union government’s latest affidavit in the Supreme Court that vaccination is purely voluntary indicates otherwise.
COVID-19 Vaccination in Poll-Bound States: To be or not to be
IFP Editorial: Although it is a matter of right for the citizen to refuse vaccination if he or she has any misgivings either about adverse effects or superstition it is proving to be a hurdle to the total vaccination drive as envisaged by the government.
Updated 21 Jan 2022, 8:47 am
Although it is a matter of right for the citizen to refuse vaccination if he or she has any misgivings either about adverse effects or superstition it is proving to be a hurdle to the total vaccination drive as envisaged by the government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself counting the number of vaccinations and hailing it as an achievement every time a stipulated target is crossed with a host of chief ministers and BJP leaders joining the bandwagon of self-praise in various forms of social media.
The Centre has told the Supreme Court that COVID-19 inoculation guidelines issued by the Union health ministry do not envisage forcible vaccination without obtaining the consent of an individual. While saying that vaccination for Covid-19 is of larger public interest in view of the pandemic situation it however submitted that the direction and guidelines released by Government of India and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare do not envisage any forcible vaccination without obtaining consent of the concerned individual. The ministry said that it is duly advised, advertised and communicated through various print and social media platforms that all citizens should get vaccinated and systems and processes have been designed to facilitate the same.
Some states have issued orders to disincentivise the refusal of vaccination by citizens. Maharashtra had said that only fully vaccinated individuals would be allowed on local trains, and the Kerala government had said the state would not bear the cost of Covid-19 treatment for unvaccinated individuals. In Manipur, the chief minister himself is leading the charge of campaign for maximum vaccination in view of the upcoming assembly elections and newer variants of Covid-19 while various district administrations are encouraging the general population to get vaccinated through certain innovative initiatives.
India’s Covid-19 cases rose by 2,58,089 in the past 24 hours, taking the overall tally to 37.38 million, the Union Health Ministry said on Monday. Meanwhile, in the last few days, positive cases had been rising rapidly in the state after a brief lull while Covid-19 vaccination is extremely low particularly in some of the hill districts. On Monday, the daily positive figure was 235 with a positivity rate of 11.9 pc bringing the cumulative positive figures for the state to 1,27,493 while the vaccination status remained at 57.48 and 43.55 pc respectively for the first and second dose. The districts of Ukhrul and Kangpokpi remain far behind.
If one looks at Covid-19 vaccination from the rights perspective, no one could be forced and informed consent has to be acquired of every individual before vaccination and it should be purely voluntary. One has to respect the misgivings or hesitancy or superstition or religious beliefs of certain individuals. Even if the hesitancy is out of pure ignorance, the state must try really hard to convince them.
On the other hand, the pandemic is a public health issue which endangers one and all, vaccinated or unvaccinated. With the coming of new variants, even the vaccinated are likely to get infected while it is very dangerous for those who are unvaccinated not only to themselves but to the general public also. Now, as election is a matter of constitutional obligation there is no scope of Election Commission postponing the assembly elections, while also ensuring appropriate SOPs for the elections of which vaccination coverage is of vital importance.
First published:17 Jan 2022, 10:35 pm