‘Vaccinations’ and ‘Slot availability’ have become the buzz words since the introduction of the vaccination drive in India which is currently being viewed as the only panacea to ameliorate the predicament that the currentpandemic is posing to the health of thecitizens. The impact of the pandemic is far-reaching than what meets the eye which can result in complete devastation if not addressed at the requisite time and rate. In such a precarious situation, the government has the onus of providing sufficient relaxation to the citizens to promote their well-being.
In this regard, this article seeks to view the concept of the right to a vaccine of an individual as a subset of the right to life. The same has been enunciated as the cornerstone of the fundamental rights which cannot be extinguished irrespective of any scenario. It also attempts to suggest the challenges that the current Indian Vaccination scheme must overcome for yielding optimal results.
RIGHT TO LIFE INCLUDES ACCESS TO VACCINE THAT BUTTRESSES THE SUSTENANCE OF HUMAN RACE
Post the devastating second wave of Covid that resulted in more than 3 lakh casualties, Vaccination has to be amplified so that citizens have enough antibodies to embolden their immune system and when vaccination will take place for all (universal vaccination), India will be better able to develop herd immunity. The right to health is guaranteed by the constitution through right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The Hon’ble Supreme court has time and again accentuated upon the State’s responsibility to cater to needs of each individual in terms of promotion of health.
In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the Hon’ble Apex court expanded the ambit of Article 21 while reading Fundamental Right to life in consonance with the directive principles of state policy. Due importance and attention have to be given to protect thehealth of workers, men, women and children, and must maintain humane conditions for all.
In the case of Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of Bengal, the Apex Court while emphasizing the doctrine of the welfare state, opined that the state has the responsibility of providing medical aid through different apparatus such as ambulances, hospitals at district and sub-district levels, availability of beds, etc. to each person thereby equating life will proper and adequate timely medical assistance.
The Suo-moto cognizance of lapses pertaining to the administration of Covid-19 situation related to proper supply of medicines and essential requirements, affordable treatment, vaccination of all, especially front-line workers and proper disposal of dead bodies amidst shortage and chaos is indicative of the exigency and gravity of the issue. Furthermore, there have been instances of laxed administration and vaccine shortage that have led to endangering of life of citizens. Such instances include people not getting second dose of the vaccination, mixing of vaccines,failure to follow social distancing norms at vaccination centres and many more.
Such management of a policy as imperative as this, indicates that the purpose of granting right to life stands defeated when such discrepancies are an undeniable part of the reality. The expansion of health infrastructure and negotiation with vaccine manufacturers to increase production through compulsory licensing is the need of the hour must be invoked for allowing the central government to do so.
The Indian nations state assumes upon itself the role of parenspatraie which means that it acts as the parents of the citizens living in the Indian territory and is thereby responsible for securing enough vaccinations that can be provided to the citizenry as soon as possible while maintaining social distancing norms and unhindered access to other essential requirements such as food, medication, sanitizers, masks, etc.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BEING FORGOTTEN AMIDST PANDEMIC – THE BLATANT VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 14
The scheme of vaccination operates through an online medium which is plausible in a milieu where people spend most of their time in front of blazing screens. However, the same is void of taking into account all stakeholders that exist in the Indian regime. While there has been an increase in the number of internet users and access to good connectivity, there still exists a large number of the population who lack the technical know-how, which is why reservation of booking an appointment for vaccination only through online registration acts as a hurdle for them to get vaccinated.
People belonging to rural regions, tribal population, beggars and people who are dependent on others on the account of age, place, income, disability appear to be treated as ‘second class citizens’ in such a scenario, since they lack the knowledge and the resources for facilities that enable its utilization. Furthermore, the vaccination was started with great pomp with precedence being provided to front-line workers such as police and doctors. However, the same in endeavour failed to address all those who are a part of the same ecosystem. The non-classification of people working in crematoriums, those engaged in sanitation such as garbage collectors, sweepers as front-line workers leads to enhanced exposure to the perils of the pandemic.
It is also imperative to note that there also exists a section of the population that finds the requirement of identity cards for procuring an appointment cumbersome such as sex workers and beggars. In the absence of any financial aid and required documentation, getting vaccinated to develop immunity, remains a matter of concern that requires urgent attention of the policymakers.
The possible ramification of the current pandemic entails dependency of such people over their caretakers, good Samaritans and various NGO who are working towards this cause. Moreover, in the absence of vaccination that strengthens theimmune response, such people are more vulnerable to get infected and struggle to secure proper treatment and medication at times of financial crunch and shortage in the nation.
Therefore, other avenues of vaccination such as door-to-door vaccination, on-spot reservation for the aforementioned population, etc must be consideredand rolled out as soon as possible because if India is to relieve itself of the third wave of covid 19, herd immunity through vaccination for all is to be achieved at all costs.
INDIA FALLS SHORT OF ADDRESSING INTERNATIONAL REPERCUSSIONS
The World Health Organisation has yet to notify “Covaxin” as a vaccine that can be administered to the masses for better combat against covid. The Indian Government has however,gone ahead with the vaccination since the vaccine was issued an emergency approval by the Central Drugs and Standards Committee (CDSCO) owing to successful results in combatting the UK variant of the virus.
The issue lies in the acceptance of such a decision at the global level as the non-recognition of the vaccine might pose trouble if the vaccination is disregarded by foreign nations which is a place of vocation and academics for a large section of the population. Passports, visas, and admissions all can get affected through this non-acceptance which will cause immense loss to the personal liberty of citizens and also jeopardise the remittances., the same also runs in derogation of the pronouncement provided by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the celebrated case of Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, which established the right to travel abroad as a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian constitution.
The Right to life and equality have to be embedded in the current vaccination scheme to increase inclusivity and enhance transparency. The same must also conform to international standards so that India can meet up its domestic challenges while emerging as a key player at the geopolitical platform. The true purpose of vaccination will be realised only when all the sections of the society can get benefitted equally, not just as a matter of their health but also as a matter of their fundamental right and the state’s obligation to preserve the same.
Title Image: AAMC
This article has been written by Prachi Tandon. Prachi is a 2nd year law student studying ILNU, Ahmedabad.