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SC asks Centre to explain vaccine pricing

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to explain the mechanism by which it arrived at vaccine prices and orally told it to explore the need to invoke provisions under the Patent Act to regulate the prices at which the jabs are sold.

A Division Bench, consisting of Justices DR Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat, hearing the suo motu case on Covid-19, wanted to know why different companies were quoting different prices at a time when the country is passing through “a pandemic and a national crisis.”

For the expanded vaccination programme, from May 1, States will get Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at ₹600/dose and Serum Institute’s Covishield at ₹400, while for private hospitals, the vaccines are priced at ₹1,200 and ₹600, respectively.

The Bench wanted the Centre to clarify the projected requirement of vaccines for enhancing the coverage to those between 18 and 45, and the modalities for extending the coverage. It said that the Supreme Court cannot be “a mute spectator” during a national crisis like this.

Chhattisgarh, Delhi and Telangana have been asking the Centre either to negotiate the price for them or put a cap. Many States plan to give free vaccinations, regardless of the age group.

With the unrelenting spike in Covid cases, the court told every State government to file a report on its health infrastructure to fight the virus. The next hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

The apex court also said that High Courts will not be restrained in issuing directions to the States as they are already hearing cases in their jurisdictions and are fully aware of the ground reality.

An official statement said that the Centre has so far supplied more than 15.65 crore vaccine shots to the States/Union Territories and the total consumption, including wastage, stood at nearly 14.65 crore. Thus, the States have around 1 crore doses on hand and another 80 lakh shots will be supplied to them over the next three days. The Hindu BusinessLine

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