Bengal Update : WB asks SC to set aside Centre’s differential pricing policy for vaccines

Insight Online News

New Delhi, May 7 : The West Bengal government has asked the Supreme Court to set aside the Centre’s differential policy for Covid-19 vaccines. It said it is “of the view that the pricing policy is ex-facie detrimental to the interest of the state governments and will result in an inequitable distribution of vaccines across the country.”

The state government, in an affidavit, said the Covid-19 vaccination policy must be underpinned by the principle that we are as strong as our weakest link; a single person deprived of vaccination would be to the collective detriment of a large section of society. “Any immunization policy must pass the muster of Part III of the Constitution of India and must be in furtherance of a person’s fundamental right to health enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution”, said the affidavit.

The state government also asked the top court to disband the “Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination.” It urged the top court to tell the Centre to adopt and implement a uniform policy of procuring 100 percent doses rom vaccine manufacturers, which can be equitably distributed to the state governments and Union Territories for free.

“In the interest of transparency, it is prayed that this Court directs the two vaccine producers to explain the rationale and methodology for arriving at the current prices for the Covid-19 vaccines payable by the States; Profiteering at the time of a pandemic is something this Hon’ble Court ought not to countenance”, added the affidavit.

The state government said vaccines must be considered as a “public good” and therefore should be free of cost for the public at the time of an unprecedented crisis and cannot be reduced to a market commodity. “The basis for arriving at the figures of Rs 400 (now Rs 300) and Rs 600, for Covishield and Covaxin, respectively, is completely opaque and in fact higher than the cost per dose for Covid-19 vaccines across the world”, said the affidavit.

The state government contended that the price for Covid-19 vaccines should be capped at a uniform Rs 150 per dose. The affidavit added that the state governments cannot be made to negotiate and bargain individually on Covid-19 vaccine prices as well as the supply of vaccines with individual private players.

“It is prayed that this Court directs the Government of India to set aside the current differential vaccine pricing regime and directs the government of India to cap the prices of vaccines at a uniform fixed rate under Sections 3 and 19 of the Drugs (Prices Control) Order, 2013 (Notified by SO 1221 (E) dated 15.05.2013 and as amended up to vide SO 1192(E) dated 22-03-2016); Such a step would not only ensure that no profiteering occurs at the time of a national crisis but would also ensure universal vaccine coverage”, said the affidavit.

As on April 28, a total of 1,04,38,235 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in West Bengal. In the affidavit, the West Bengal government also pointed out about the expected increase in oxygen demand in the coming weeks. “It is humbly stated that with the expected increase in oxygen demand in coming weeks, the current rate of diversion of LMO outside the State of West Bengal will adversely impact the medical treatment of Covid-19 patients in the State”, said the affidavit.

The government also recommended that the health secretaries of the states should be consulted twice a day to ensure the availability of real-time information on oxygen demand and availability.


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