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Supreme Court flags issues in Centre’s vaccination strategy, seeks reply in 2 weeks

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The Supreme Court on Monday posed several relevant questions to the Union government related to the national vaccination drive against COVID-19. The issues were raised by the apex court after the Centre submitted that it intends to complete the vaccination drive in Indian by December-end.

The court was hearing a suo motu petition related to the supply of essential medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to COVID-19 patients.

Notably, the Centre’s vaccination strategy has drawn criticism for differential pricing, lack of access for the rural populace and shortage of doses. Also, states such as Delhi said that foreign vaccine makers have refused to supply jabs to states as they will deal only with the Centre.

What the Supreme court said

The bench comprising of Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice L Nageswara Rao flagged issued related to differential pricing of vaccines. It also demanded that the Centre must produce its vaccine policy document. It also raised questions on the union government’s vaccine procurement policy.

The court said, “We can’t have differential pricing for the Centre and States. Central government has wide powers to fix rates under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Why leave it to the vaccine manufacturers to fix different pricing?”

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“Please smell the coffee. If we had to do we would have done so 15 days ago. But we want you to smell the coffee and realise what’s happening in the country and make the necessary amendments,” the bench added.

The Supreme Court further questioned the rationale behind not supplying vaccines for the population below 45 years. “Our question is what is the rationale. For the population above 45 years, we will supply vaccine, but for under 45 years, states are left to make arrangements,” the court observed.

It further added, “Your rationale for doing this was that the rate of mortality is higher for above 45 years. In the second wave of the pandemic, it is not merely the above 45 age group that is affected. Those under 45 years are also suffering.”

The Supreme Court asked, “Why is it that the Centre is making arrangements to get vaccines for those above 45 years and leaving the logistics to states for people under 45 years.” The court granted two weeks to the Union government to file its response to the questions raised by it.

 

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