The Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that 96.8 percent of India's adult population have been administered with first dose of the Covid vaccine and 81.3 percent have been administered the second dose.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, submitted before a bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai that 177,50,86,335 (177.5 crore) total vaccines have been administered.
In the adult population, 96.8 percent of the population (90,92,27,350) has been covered with the first dose, and 81.3 percent of the population (76,35,65,779) has been covered with the second dose. For the population between 15-18 years of age, 74 percent (5,47,94,459) have been covered with the first dose, and 37.1 percent (2,74,87,370) with the second dose. The precaution dose numbers for the adult population amount to 2,00,11,377. The figures are based on data collated on February 28.
The top court was hearing a plea by Jacob Puliyel challenging vaccine mandates issued by various state governments and seeking direction to also disclose post vaccination data regarding adverse events.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing Puliyel, a formermember of the National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, contended that a person's fundamental right to not take vaccine cannot be eclipsed by the government only by saying that person not taking vaccine will pose a clear threat to public health.
Bhushan said: "Even, I had Covid. But, I have not taken the vaccine. I have decided not to take the vaccine, come what may."
He insisted that adverse effects of Covid vaccination are not known, and questioned why governments are issuing vaccine mandates restricting people from entering public spaces by making vaccination mandatory. "If one was infected with Covid (and got cured), that person gets better natural immunity against the infection," said Bhushan.
At this, Justice Gavai said: "Can we go into this area. We do not possess basic knowledge". The bench reminded Bhushan that the plea questions whether state governments can take such decisions in connection with the vaccination. It added that science is a matter of opinion and Bhushan may have presented one opinion, but they can be contested.
"Your opinion may not be shared by others," added the bench.
Justice Rao reiterated: "We are not experts in the medical field. Don't take us deep into the scientific issues."
Bhushan added that people are being mandated to take those vaccines, whose phase 3 trial data is not available, and also the material presented to drug control authority is not presented to the public. He said: "Where is the question of informed consent?"
Bhushan asked, just because the company which had submitted data to the regulator asks the data not to be disclosed, it cannot be disclosed.
He said there is no study canvassing on long-term effects of vaccination on health and pointed out that vaccines are being made mandatory for child care institutions, and ICSE board made it mandatory for children to sit in the exams. He pressed that the court must exercise its power of judicial review upon any such arbitrary directive and strike down such vaccine mandates.
Concluding the arguments, Bhushan said the petition has three prayers: one on vaccine mandates, on disclosure of data on clinical trials, and the need to revamp the system to report adverse events.
Bhati submitted that Centre has taken a decision not to make vaccination mandatory and against the backdrop of vaccination data, she added that the whole aspect of challenging the vaccination has paled into insignificance.
At this, the bench pointed out that Bhushan has not challenged the vaccination but he has challenged mandatory vaccination.
The hearing in the matter will continue next week.
On January 31, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, informed the top court that nobody is losing jobs due to non-vaccination.