The Centre on Monday defended its vaccination policy in the Supreme Court, saying the new liberalised pricing policy is to ensure scaling up of vaccine coverage, to incentivize vaccine manufacturers to push their production and attract new manufacturers, Bar and Bench reported.
“Differential pricing is based on the concept of creating an incentivised demand for the private vaccine manufacturers in order to instil a competitive market resulting in higher production of vaccines and market driven affordable prices for the same. This will also attract offshore vaccine manufacturers to enter the country. This will result in increased availability of vaccine,” the Centre said in an affidavit in a suo motu case initiated by the apex court over Covid-19 management in the country.
The government said that though it is duty bound to fully assist the Supreme Court, no interference is called for by way of judicial proceedings .
“In the context of a global pandemic, where the response and strategy of the nation is completely driven by expert medical and scientific opinion, there is even little room for judicial interference. Any overzealous, though well-meaning judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences, in absence of any expert advice or administrative experience, leaving the doctors, scientists, experts and executive very little room to find innovative solutions on the go,” the affidavit said.
It should be left open for the executive to discharge its executive functions in larger interest, it added.
The top cout had in April questioned the government on vaccine pricing and asked it to revisit the pricing policy, saying it would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health. The court underlined that manufacturers have suggested two different prices, a lower price which is applicable to the Centre and a higher price which is applicable to the quantities purchased by state governments.
The court said that compelling state governments to negotiate with manufacturers on grounds of promoting competition and making it attractive for new vaccine manufacturers will result in a serious detriment to those in the age group of 18 to 44 years, who will be vaccinated by state governments.
Pune-based Serum Institute of India is supplying Covishield to the Centre for Rs 150 a dose while to states for Rs 300 a dose. Private Hospitals are getting it at double the state’s price at Rs 600. Whereas, Covaxin manufacturer Bharat Biotech has priced its vaccine at Rs 150 a dose for the Centre, Rs 600 a dose for state governments and Rs 1,200 a dose for private hospitals. Both anti-Covid vaccines are administered in two doses.