Can’t Have Different Prices For Vaccines, SC Asks Centre About Vaccine-Procurement Policy
The Supreme Court on Monday questioned the Centre on differential pricing of vaccines. It also demanded the Centre to produce their vaccine policy document. The apex court asked the Centre about the vaccine-procurement policy by referring to the fact that states are in the process of issuing global tenders to procure jabs for coronavirus.
A bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao, was hearing a suo motu case related to supply of essential medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to coronavirus patients.
“We can’t have differential pricing for the Centre and States. Central government has wide powers to fix rates under Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Why leave it to the vaccine manufacturers to fix different pricing?” said the Supreme Court.
“Please smell the coffee. If we had to do we would have done so 15 days ago. But we want you to smell the coffee and realise what’s happening in the country and make the necessary amendments,” Bar and Bench reported, quoting Justice Chandrachud.
The top court also questioned the rationale behind making vaccines free for those above 45 years of age while charging the rest. “What is the basis for Centre to say that for 45+ age group, Centre will provide free of charge, but not for 18-44 age group. If the purpose is to procure vaccines, why should Centre confine itself to 45 plus & leave states to fend for themselves in 18-44 group?” questioned SC.
Data released by the Centre last week showed that nearly 26 per cent of all Covid cases between May 1 and May 24 were in the 18-44 age group.
“Several states are issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19 and is this policy of the central government?” the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The Centre said the entire eligible population would be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
The government is in talks with companies like Pfizer and if it succeeds, then the timeline for completing the vaccination would change, the law officer said.
Earlier, the top court had constituted a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to the states and Union territories for saving lives of COVID patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.
With PTI inputs