The government cannot be held liable to pay compensation for deaths due to the administration of COVID-19 vaccines, the Centre has told the Supreme Court.
“Holding the state directly liable to provide compensation under the narrow scope of strict liability for extremely rare deaths occurring due to AEFIs (adverse events following immunisation) from the use of vaccines may not be legally sustainable,” the affidavit said.
The government had made “substantial efforts” to ensure a safe and effective vaccination programmed against COVID-19. The government said information was made freely available in the public domain by both the vaccine manufacturer and the Health Ministry. More information could be had on the asking from health workers at the vaccination centres, or doctors.
“As such, once a vaccine beneficiary who has access to all relevant information voluntarily chooses to enter a vaccination centre and receive vaccination, the question of a lack of informed consent does not arise,” the government said.
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It said if beneficiaries had suffered physical injury or death from an AEFI, appropriate remedies in law were available to them or their families. They could approach civil courts to claim damages for negligence, malfeasance or misfeasance. “Such claims may be determined on a case-by-case basis in an appropriate forum,” the government argued.
The affidavit said that till November 19, 2022, a total of 219.86 crore doses of COVID 19 vaccines had been administered in the country.
A total of 92,114 AEFI cases (0.0042%) were reported during this period, of which 89,332 (0.0041%) were minor AEFI cases and 2,782 cases were serious and severe AEFIs (0.00013%).