The Delhi High Court Tuesday put on hold till further orders the Delhi government’s ambitious plan to conduct a vaccination campaign in schools across the capital to eliminate measles and control rubella, saying the decision lacks consent of parents.
The measles-rubella (MR) vaccination campaign was to be conducted within a period of three to four weeks, starting January 16.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru, however, in an interim order, suspended the Delhi government’s project and sought the reply of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Delhi government and its Directorate of Education (DoE) by January 21, on a plea stating that no person can be deprived of his life or personal liberty.
The court directed the DoE to coordinate with school principals and also issue advertisements through various modes, including national dailies, explaining the vaccine and its benefits. It also directed that the Delhi government seek consent of parents. For this, principals will ask teachers to coordinate with parents to take their consent before their child is vaccinated.
Delhi government’s standing counsel Ramesh Singh and additional standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi agreed to the court’s direction, and said they will place before the court the steps taken in this regard.
Central government standing counsel Monika Arora and advocate Kushal Sharma said around 25 states have run such a campaign successfully. The court, however, directed the government to place their stand before it.
The court’s direction came on petition filed by students of various private schools, including Modern School, through their parents. The petition sought to quash the DoE’s December 19, 2018, notification of vaccinating children without obtaining consent of the recipients or their legal guardians.
“It is settled principle that choice of an individual, even in cases of life-saving medical treatment, is an inextricable part of dignity which ought to be protected… The law and procedure, authorising any kind of interference with personal liberty and right to privacy, must also be right, just and fair and not arbitrary, fanciful and oppressive,” the students claimed in their plea.
As per the order to schools, all children aged nine months to less than 15 years will be provided with an additional dose of MR vaccine, regardless of previous vaccination status or history of measles/rubella-like illness.
Under the MR campaign, the departments of health and education are partnering so students and teachers of all schools actively participate. This will include orientation for officers, principals, teachers and students by experts of the Health Department.
School heads have been asked to assign teachers to help organise and conduct immunisation sessions in school and coordinate with health workers to conduct vaccination sessions during school timings.
“Ensure that students come to school after breakfast on the date of vaccination. If needed, timings of mid-day meal may be adjusted accordingly. Also ensure that teachers cross-check left thumb marking of all vaccinated children,” the DoE’s letter to schools said.