Govt is not responsible for deaths related to COVID vaccine: Centre to SC

Govt is not responsible for deaths related to COVID vaccine: Centre to SC
Govt is not responsible for deaths related to COVID vaccine: Centre to SC

New Delhi: The government cannot be held liable for adverse effects due to Covid vaccination, the Centre told Supreme Court. In a recent affidavit, the Centre said that in cases where a death is found to be induced due to the vaccine, the only remedy is to seek compensation by filing a suit in a civil court.

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The affidavit came in response to a petition filed by parents of two young women who died after being administered the Covid vaccination last year.

The petition demanded an independent investigation into the deaths and an expert medical board to prepare a protocol for early detection and timely treatment of adverse effects following immunization (AEFI).

Filing its response to the petition last week, the ministry of health and family welfare said, “Holding the state liable to provide compensation under the narrow scope of strict liability for extremely rare deaths occurring due to AEFIs from use of vaccines may not be legally sustainable.”

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Offering sincere condolences for the two deaths, the Centre said that only in one case, the investigation by the National AEFI Committee found the cause of death to be vaccine-related AEFI.

Denying the petition’s prayer for compensation, the ministry said, “If a person suffers physical injury or death from AEFI, appropriate remedies in law are open to vaccine beneficiaries per their families including approaching the civil courts for a claim of damages/compensation.”

Such claim for negligence is to be decided on a case-to-case basis.

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The petition argued by senior advocate Colin Gonsalves had pointed out that these deaths would not have resulted had there been informed consent of its after-effects.

The Centre told the Court, “The concept of informed consent is inapplicable to the voluntary use of drug such as vaccine.”

Giving figures of AEFIs, the government said that it was very few compared to the total administered doses.

“Out of 219.86 crore doses of Covid-19 vaccines administered in the country till November 19, 2022, there are 92,114 AEFIs reported,” the affidavit said.

Of this, 89,332 (0.0041%) were minor AEFIs while only 2,782 (0.00013%) resulted in serious or severe AEFI including death.

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The Centre added a caveat saying that the “causation analysis” of all severe/serious AEFI was still pending and hence, it was too early to suggest that the same was directly attributed to the vaccine.

The first petitioner Rachana Gangu’s daughter was vaccinated with first dose of Covishield on May 29 last year and died within a month on June 19.

The daughter of the other petitioner Venugopalan Govindan was a fourth year M.Sc student who got her first dose of Covishield on June 18 and expired on July 10 last year.

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The affidavit said the first petitioner’s daughter developed the Thrombosis and Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS) which is a rare AEFIs related to administration of Covid-19 vaccines reported globally.

In India, 26 AEFI cases of TTS was reported till September 30 of which only 12 resulted in death. This was less compared to 105 TTS cases reported in Canada and 173 cases in Australia.

The petitioners had sent separate representations last year to the Prime Minister’s office on July 14 and July 16 to which they claimed to have received no response.

However, Centre claimed that their representations were answered once previously in December 2021 and March 2022. In the petition, they sought details of autopsy report and compensation, offering to donate it in charity.

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