Supreme Court Inquires On COVID-19 Vaccination Price & Procurement Policy
The Supreme Court (SC) disapproved of the Union Government's COVID-19 vaccine pricing and procurement policy and said that vaccines are overpriced. The Court inquired that when the Central Govt. (Union) is charging Rs 150 per vaccine dose then why should the nation pay Rs 300 or 400 as prices are fixed by +manufacturers in different States.
The SC bench comprising of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao, and Ravindra Bhat initiated suo motu proceedings and directed the Centre to examine the issue religiously as to why the manufacturers have priced the vaccine at Rs 300 or 400 and why it is not fixed at Rs 150. However, the Top Court has not passed any order as such in this regard.
It was pointed out that Rules 19 and 20 of the Drugs Price Control Order require the Centre to control the price of drugs. The Apex Court further remarked that the Union should determine the issues relating to COVID-19 management in India.
Justice Bhat stressed the significance of cooperative federalism, stating that this is a public health emergency. He added that the Union's affidavit says there are 10 PSUs that can manufacture. You can get licenses through the patent controller and get it manufactured.
The Top Court asked Union regarding the procurement policy of vaccines by States and it asked why a national immunization policy cannot be adopted.
Justice Chandrachud asked that why we are not following the National Immunization Program Policy. It stated that the procurement is centralized but distribution is decentralized.
He further inquired as to why the Union has not yet considered invoking Section 92 of Patents Act and issuing compulsory licenses so that drugs can be manufactured while royalties are sorted.
Justice Chandrachud said that compulsory licenses can be granted with a sunset clause which shows that such licenses will be over once the pandemic is over. He added that the Doha Declaration of TRIPS shows that member States can take such steps to protect the right of public health.
The Top Court showed concern over the rising price of vaccine for COVID 19 from various manufacturers and said that during this emergency period it is the time that vaccine should be available to all at a nominal and reasonable price.