SC questions Centre’s pricing and distribution of COVID vaccine policy

On Friday the Supreme Court of India questioned Centre for its COVID vaccination policy which allows States and private companies to set different prices for the vaccine. It further enquired as to why compulsory licensing under Patent Act was not being considered over COVID vaccines.

The bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat was hearing the suo moto case In Re Distribution of Essential Supplies and Services During Pandemic.

Justice DY Chandrachud asked does this mean leaving it to the vaccine manufacturers as to which state would get how much? Can this question of equity be left to the private sector? Why can’t Central Government get it in bulk and then the states have it picked up?

Justice Bhat further reffered to countries like Germany, Canada and France that have all issued compulsory licenses in regard to the essential drugs.

The Court observed the pricing issue to be extraordinarily serious saying it is equity over public  goods and that Centre should take up it’s responsibilities as it can’t be left for the manufacturers to decide the price or distribution. It is required to ramp up the availability of the vaccine through various units of production. The bench questioned the arguments of fostering competitive markets by the Centre distancing itself from the production.

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