Cannot play with lives of people by directing revaccination with Covishield without any data: SC

The apex court was hearing a petition that said that Covaxin was not approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and people here are facing difficulty in getting permission to travel abroad.

The Supreme Court on Friday said that it cannot play with people’s lives by directing the Centre to revaccinate people with Covishield who are fully vaccinated with Covaxin to enable them to travel abroad during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The apex court was hearing a petition that said that Covaxin was not approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and people here are facing difficulty in getting permission to travel abroad.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna said that the court does not have any data on the people’s effect, and it cannot simply direct the Centre to revaccinate people with Covishield.

“We cannot play with the lives of people by directing Centre to revaccinate. We don’t have any data with us. We have read in newspapers that Bharat Biotech has filed an application with the World Health Organisation for recognition. Let us wait for the response of WHO. We will take up this matter post-Diwali vacation,” the bench said.

Advocate Kartik Seth, appearing in person, contended that every day some students and people are willing to go abroad, but they are denied entry as the WHO does not recognise Covaxin.

He said that under the present mechanism, a person vaccinated with Covaxin could not register himself on the CoWIN portal to get the Covishield vaccine, and a direction can be issued to the Centre in this regard.

“We cannot pass a direction to administer another vaccine without any data. We understand your concern but let’s wait for the WHO’s response,” the bench said.

The top court said that there is also concern that competitors may try to take advantage of the litigation in the garb of the PIL.

Seth said that his PIL is purely a Public Interest Litigation as several students who go abroad to study are denied entries in various countries.

The plea filed by Seth said that at the time of rolling out of Covaxin, the government did not make the public aware that WHO did not approve it.

It said that Bharat Biotech had submitted its application for approval as late as April 2021, and in May, people came to know many countries are not allowing entry of those who are vaccinated with vaccines other than those enlisted in WHO’s emergency use list.

The plea prayed for a direction to the concerned department and release official data and reasons for the delay in getting approval to Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech.

It also sought direction for disclosing the actual data and records to WHO to obtain approval in favour of Covaxin.

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