The Delhi High Court on Friday observed that it would be a disaster if the Covid-19 vaccines are administered to children without conducting proper research.

Stating that the whole country was waiting for the vaccination for children, a division bench comprising of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh observed thus:

"Let the trials be concluded. It would be a disaster if vaccines are administered to children without conducting proper research."

The development came after the Centre informed the Court that Pharmaceutical Company Zydus Cadila which is developing DNA plasmid based COVID-19 vaccine has concluded it's clinical trials for children within the age group of 12-18 years. It stated that the vaccine may be available in near future, subject to statutory permissions. Earlier, the Centre had indicated before the Top Court Zydus Cadila vaccine might be available soon for the said age group.

The Court was also informed that a policy for vaccination of children will be formulated and further implemented as soon as the permission from the necessary authorities is granted.

Moreover, the Centre stated that the Drug Controller of India from May 1 this year has permitted Bharat Biotech to conduct clinical trials on 'healthy volunteers' between 2 to 18 years of age for Covaxin.

The Court was hearing plea moved by Tia Gupta (12 year old) and her mother seeking directions to immediately vaccinate children between the ages of 12-17 years in Delhi as well as to prioritize vaccination amongst parents having children up to 17 years of age.

The plea also prayed for formulating a comprehensive National Plan with respect to children covering all aspects of their protection from the ill effects of Covid-19.

During the course of hearing, Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev appearing for the petitioner submitted before the Court that although the Centre has filed affidavit in the matter, the same lacks a proper timeline as far as the vaccination process is concerned.

The Court however rejected the prayer of the petitioner to make the process time bound after observing that since the issue involves research, the same cannot be limited to a time bound issue.

"We are giving time. We are not dismissing this petition. We are adjourning the matter. When the trial is going on, what is this petitioner arguing that there is a time bound schedule. We do not accept such arguments. There cannot be a time bound schedule for research," the bench said.

Stating that the Vaccine Policy of India against COVID-19 has failed to consider children or parents of children, who are a vulnerable section of society, the plea averred thus:

"Respondents have failed to prepare a National Plan for children in adherence to the guidelines as given under the National Disaster Management Plan 2019, formulated under the Disaster Management Act 2005 ("DM Act"), which clearly recognize children and their vulnerability during a 'biological disaster', such as the present COVID pandemic."

Referring to the 12 year old as being an "aware and tech-savvy child like all her other peers", the plea stated that the petitioner is anxious "as to why the Respondents are not attempting to protect their fundamental right of life, by ensuring mitigation measures such as access to vaccination for children in India."

In view of this, the plea stated:

"The Petitioners and other similarly placed persons seek for justice which is being denied to them. Furthermore, the present writ is in line with Article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which establishes the right of every child to give their opinions freely on matters concerning them and obliges governments to ensure that children's voices are heard and taken seriously."

The plea also stated that the respondents must put in place measures to ensure that children are not left orphaned and at the danger of trafficking as their parents were not given priority for being inoculated against COVID-19.

The matter will now be considered on September 6.

Title: Tia Gupts (Minor) & Anr. v. Union of India & Anr.

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