Central government defends vaccine policy in Supreme Court
The differential pricing of vaccines is intended to incentivize private manufacturers and increase vaccine availability in the country, the central government told the highest court.
The government filed its affidavit last night in response to questions from the Supreme Court regarding vaccine policy. While the Supreme Court had made it clear that it was not seeking to replace government policy with its own, the judiciary raised several concerns about the centre’s approach.
Letting state governments negotiate directly with manufacturers will create chaos and uncertainty, the highest court said in its April 30 order.
“Uniform vaccine price for all states”
The government has now told the court that it has conducted informal negotiations with vaccine manufacturers and guaranteed a uniform price of the vaccine for all states.
The final recipient, however, will not have to pay anything as state governments have said they will provide free vaccines to the population, the affidavit added.
Further, according to the affidavit, the central government – by the nature of its extensive immunization program – places bulk orders for vaccines from states and private health facilities and this reality is reflected in negotiated prices.
Currently, the central government is vaccinating healthcare workers, frontline workers and anyone over 45 years old. State governments and private health facilities have been allowed to go ahead and open up vaccination for the 18-44 age group. The central government receives 50% of the total vaccine produced while the state and private health facilities receive their share of the remaining 50%.
‘Will consider walk-in vaccination for 18-44 year olds at a later stage ‘
Besides the prices, the highest court had also asked the central government if it had taken any action for those who might not be able to register online, which is currently mandatory for the age group of 18. -44 years.
The government told the court today that the move was taken taking into account administrative factors as well as the limited availability of vaccines. Allowing walk-in facilities for this age group will lead to overcrowding at vaccination centers, which can be avoided by prior online registration that grants specific time slots.
The government also said that citizens who may not have access to digital resources, such as the rural population, can get their appointments through the common service centers of the gram panchayats.
Apart from that, citizens can also get help from family, friends and NGOs for registration, the affidavit states.
Required License: Work To Find A Solution, Says Center
In a previous hearing, the Supreme Court also suggested that the central government could consider invoking its powers under patent law to grant compulsory licenses for essential drugs at the time of the pandemic.
At this, the government said, with regard to the drug Remdesivir, the problem lies more in the supply of raw materials than in the lack of manufacturing capacity.
In addition, the government said it was engaging with global organizations on the issue of compulsory licenses and urged the court not to delve into the matter at this stage.
The case is heard by a bench of three judges composed of judges DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat. The judiciary will hear the case on May 13.