The Delhi government in India issued a notice on Dec. 19, 2018 making the measles and rubella (MR) vaccine mandatory for students between the ages of nine months and 15 years old without the consent of student or their parents.1
Parents received an email from the schools in Delhi informing them that all students would be receiving a shot of the MR vaccine beginning Jan. 16, 2019 as part of the “Measles and Rubella Vaccine Immunization Campaign” implemented by the Delhi government. The notification states that all children in the specified age group would get an additional dose of the MR vaccine regardless of whether they had received it in previously.2
The letter stated, “Ensure that students come to school after the breakfast on the date of vaccination. If needed, timings of Mid-Day Meal may be adjusted accordingly. Also ensure that teachers crosscheck left thumb marking of all vaccinated children.”2
In response to this letter, parents filed a petition in the Delhi high court against this decision to mandatorily vaccinate children without parental consent. The petitioners who were represented by Law Chambers of Kapur and Trehan argued that mandatory vaccination not only violated the right to freedom of choice, personal liberty and the right to privacy but also potentially puts the children’s lives at risk for adverse reactions.2
On Jan. 15, 2019, one day before the MR campaign was to begin in Delhi schools, the New Delhi High Court stopped the implementation of the campaign in response to the petitions.3 The high court stated that vaccines cannot be forcibly administered on children without the voluntary consent of their parents.4
According to the high court, “Since it is apparent that the consent of the parents is not obtained and respondent are proceeded on the basis that the consent is not necessary, the campaign for administering the MR vaccine is deferred till further orders from the court.”4
Pankaj Bhatnagar, MD of the World Health Organization’s National Polio Surveillance Program, which is also responsible for overseeing the administration of the MR vaccine stated, “This is a unique situation; so far, none of the other states have had a petition filed against the campaign, except for Kerala where the court quashed it.”4
Delhi’s director of general health services Nutan Mundeja, MD told news reporters that, “We are studying the order and looking at how to seek consent.”3
1 Delhi High Court Defers AAP Government’s Vaccination Drive. NDTV Jan. 16, 2019.
2 Punj S. Parents Nod Must for MMR Vaccines. India Today Jan. 16, 2019.
3 Hackett DW. India Court Stops Measles and Rubella Vaccination. Precision Vaccinations Jan. 16, 2019.
4 Dutt A, Banka R. HC orders deferring MR vaccine campaign in Delhi after parents’ objection. Hindustan Times Jan. 16, 2019.