The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the forefront the intrinsic link between health and human rights and exposed the conflict between public health measures and individual rights and liberties. These conflicts are apparent in the context of COVID-19 vaccines as well. Vaccines were fast-tracked, given emergency approval and produced and distributed by a few manufacturers with the help of the government and multiple agencies, to control the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the lack of transparency in regulation, the formulation of arbitrary policies, unfair pricing, unequal procurement, restricted and discriminatory distribution, lack of informed consent and lack of accountability for adverse events following immunization (AEFI) also created conflicts and controversies, exacerbated inequities and violated the right to life and health. As people turned to the courts, the judiciary received appreciation for reiterating the recognition of the constitutional right to health and nudging the government’s vaccine policy in the right direction. However, a closer look at various aspects and questions before the courts reveals certain blind spots on the part of the judiciary in fully upholding the right to health. The article relies on key elements of the right to health, in particular the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality (AAAQ) framework to analyse court orders, the government’s stand and their impact on individual and public health. This analysis is contextualized with the help of media reports, investigative journalism and interventions by civil society organisations. In presenting the right to health as an important and useful foundation for the government and the judiciary to reflect on and review the decisions and actions of the past three years, this paper seeks to lend support to efforts to ensure that the injustices and inequities of these pandemic years are not repeated.
Bhardwaj, Kajal and Johari, Veena
"COVID-19 Vaccines in India: Judicial Blind Spots in upholding the Right to Health,"
Socio-Legal Review: Vol. 18:
2, Article 1.
Available at: https://repository.nls.ac.in/slr/vol18/iss2/1