The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the centre to explain the basis and rationale behind the pricing of Coronavirus vaccines as it opens up the doors to everyone above the age of 18 years on May 1.
“The Union of India shall clarify in its affidavit the basis and rationale adopted in regard to the pricing of vaccines,” a bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat ordered.
“Different manufacturers are coming out with different prices. What is the Central Govt doing about it?”, the bench asked the Solicitor General of India.
Referring to the powers of the Central Government under the Drugs Control Act relating to price control and the Patents Act relating to compulsory licensing, Justice Bhat observed that the pandemic was perhaps the right time to invoke such powers. “This is a pandemic and a national crisis. If this is not the time to issue such powers, what is the time?”, Justice Bhat observed. The central government’s vaccination policy allows vaccine makers to set the price themselves.
The Serum Institute of India (SII) has announced a price of ₹400 per dose for its Covid-19 vaccine, ‘Covishield’, for state governments and ₹600 per dose for private hospitals. The central government is curently procuring Covishield at Rs 150. The Bharat Biotech has fixed the price of its COVID-19 vaccine, Covaxin, at ₹ 600 per dose for state governments and at ₹ 1,200 per dose for private hospitals.
The Supreme Court has also asked the central government to clarify the projected requirement of vaccines as a result of the expansion in coverage. The apex court noted that it could not be mute spectator during the national crisis, its role is complimentary in nature.
Each of the state governments has to file their respective replies by Thursday by 6 pm in connection with their respective states with regard to their health infrastructure (shortage of oxygen and others), the Supreme Court said and fixed the matter for further hearing to Friday noon.
“The High Courts shall not be restrained in passing any directions,” as they are hearing the cases in their respective states and they know the ground situation better, the Supreme Court said.