New delhi: The Centre on Sunday told the Supreme Court that its vaccination policy had been framed to ensure equitable distribution, with the limited availability of vaccines, vulnerability, and the fact that vaccinating the entire country was not possible in one go due to the suddenness of the pandemic, “as the prime consideration”.
The policy was “just, equitable, non-discriminatory and based upon an intelligible differentiating factor between the two age groups (45 plus and those below)”, it said
The “policy thus, conforms to mandate of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution of India and is made after several rounds of consultation and discussion with experts, State Government and vaccine manufacturers…”, the Centre said in its affidavit filed before the top court.
The policy requires “no interference by this Hon’ble Court as while dealing with a pandemic of this magnitude, the Executive does have a room for free play in the joints, in larger public interest”, it said
On April 30, the Supreme Court, while hearing a suo motu matter with regard to Covid-19 management issues, had called for “revisiting” the Centre’s “revised” Covid-19 vaccine procurement “policy”, saying “the manner in which the current policy has been framed would prima facie result in a detriment to the right to public health, which is an integral element of Article 21 of the Constitution.”
Under the Liberalized and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy which came into force on May 1, vaccine manufacturers would supply 50 per cent of their monthly Central Drug Laboratory (CDL)-released doses to the Centre, and would supply the remaining 50 per cent doses to “other than Government of India channel”, i.e., state governments, private hospitals, and hospitals of industrial establishments.
Under this Strategy, vaccinations in the 18-44-years age group is permitted under the “other than Government of India channel”. The court had flagged that manufacturers were charging two different prices from the Centre and states.
On pricing, the Centre’s affidavit says that although states procure the vaccines, the Centre has, by conducting informal consultations with the vaccine manufacturers, ensured that the price is uniform for all states.
It adds that the distribution of vaccines among the states is also based on equitable and rational criteria to eliminate and possibility of differences in the bargaining power of a state having a detrimental impact on residents of other states.