Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

No one can be forced to get vaccinated: SC

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Aspects of Article 21

Mains level : Vaccine hesitancy

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.

What is the news?

  • Vaccine hesitancy has been on rise these days.
  • The SC has found certain vaccine mandates imposed by the State governments and Union Territory administrations disproportionate.
  • They tend to deny access to basic welfare measures and freedom of movement to unvaccinated individuals.

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.

Subject to scrutiny

  • 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.
  • A framework developed from research done in high-income countries, called ‘the 5C model of the drivers of vaccine hesitancy’, provides five main individual person–level determinants for vaccine hesitancy:
  1. Confidence
  2. Complacency
  3. Convenience (or constraints)
  4. Risk calculation
  5. Collective responsibility

Questions raised by vaccine hesitancy

  1. To end the pandemic, wherein no one is safe until everyone is safe, how relevant and strong are the arguments on freedom of choice?
  2. How is the fight against this global crisis impacted when prominent personalities assert on making a choice contrary to global good?
  3. Amid the raging pandemic and the persistent threat of future waves, how can vaccine scepticism and hesitancy be addressed worldwide?

Why is it a cause of concern?

  • Re-surging of covid cases: Amid the ongoing Omicron surge, there have been reports pointing to the unvaccinated population driving the current surge in COVID-19 cases in Europe and US.
  • Risk of future waves and danger mutations: Large scale vaccine hesitancy could drag the pandemic longer by ensuring sustained continuance of the COVID-19 diseases and emergence of newer and deadlier variants.

Various causes for vaccine hesitancy

  • Scepticism: There are many reasons for vaccine scepticism. Vaccine hesitancy is complex and context specific varying across time, place and vaccines.
  • 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.
  • Public trust: Vaccine hesitancy is also influenced by factors such as complacency, convenience and confidence.

Way forward

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.
  • Highlighting success: Countries must highlight the success observed due to the vaccination programmes, wherein despite rapid rise in cases the hospitalization and death rates remain within controllable limits.

 

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