A recent survey by a digital community based platform has found that despite COVID-19 vaccination being voluntary in the country, over one in four citizens say their local administration, companies and associations have made it mandatory.
The survey by LocalCircles received over 36,000 responses from citizens residing across 328 districts of India.
It said 26 per cent of respondents noted that their local administration had made it mandatory for some or all residents in their district to take the Covid vaccine.
The Union health ministry, via a counter affidavit filed in the High Court of Bombay at Goa on October 8, had stated that vaccination for COVID-19 is a matter of social obligation and is in larger public interest".
"As a responsible citizen looking to contribute in the nation and humanity's fight against the pandemic of COVID-19 infection, it is natural that every person would get her/himself vaccinated against COVID-19 in the community, but this in no way implies that any person can be forced to be vaccinated against her/his wishes," it had said.
According to the survey, 29 per cent respondents said associations in their area such as colony/society/market have made it mandatory for some or all people seeking access to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine.
Forty per cent of the respondents said they or their family members' employers have made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory and another 13 per cent said the employer has made it mandatory but without being explicit about it.
It said 66 per cent respondents were men, while 34 per cent respondents were women.
Of the respondents, 41 per cent were from Tier 1 regions, 35 per cent from Tier 2 and 24 per cent respondents were from Tier 3 and 4 regions, and rural districts.
Multiple instances were shared in LocalCircles where local administrations were forcing or coercing people to take the vaccine, including denial of certain benefits, according to the survey report.
For instance, people reported that Aurangabad district collector ordered fair price shops, gas agencies and petrol pumps to only cater to citizens who have taken at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, it stated.
Similarly, the Thane municipal corporation announced that salaries of its employees, officials and frontline workers, who were unable to produce their first dose certificate, would be held till they got vaccinated.
LocalCircles has been tracking vaccine hesitancy since the last 12 months. The hesitancy level after reaching their lowest levels in October, with only 7 crore adults estimated to be hesitant, are again starting to rise due to use of force or coercion to vaccinate in some districts and due to overall decline in the number of COVID-19 cases," Sachin Taparia, founder, LocalCircles said.
Feedback from community discussions indicates that the central government should clarify effectively to all states and district administrations that via the Har Ghar Dastak' and any other campaign, people should only be encouraged and informed about taking the Covid vaccine and in no way forced or coerced to do so," he said.
LocalCircles will soon be releasing its latest vaccine hesitancy data, including key reasons cited by the unvaccinated citizens for not taking the vaccine, for the understanding of all stakeholders, the platform said in a statement.
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