Centre backs differential vaccine pricing, asks Supreme Court not to interfere
Centre said in its affidavit, "It is pertinent to note that the central government, by nature of its large vaccination programme, places large purchase orders for vaccines as opposed to the state governments and/or private hospitals. This reality has some reflection in the prices negotiated."
The Narendra Modi government has asked the Supreme Court to refrain from interfering in the vaccine pricing policy since it is in the domain of the executive and does not warrant judicial interference.
This argument finds mention in the affidavit submitted by the Centre in the Supreme Court on Sunday evening in connection with the suo motu case initiated to examine issues relating to Covid-19 management in the country.
On April 30, the Apex court bench led by Justice D Y Chandrachud had questioned the government on vaccine pricing. Observing that vaccines that states have to procure are overpriced, the court had suggested doing away with differential pricing between the Centre and states.
In its affidavit, the Centre said: "Differential pricing is based on the concept of creating an incentivised demand for the private vaccine manufacturers to instil a competitive market resulting in higher production of vaccines and market-driven affordable prices for the same. This will also attract offshore vaccine manufacturers to enter the country. This will result in increased availability of vaccine."
The Centre informed the Supreme Court that the vaccination drive was opened up for those aged between 18 and 44 following requests from the state governments and that the jabs are being given free of cost in all states.
With the states having to purchase stocks directly from the vaccine manufacturers, the Centre contends that it ensured uniform prices across the states by holding informal consultation with the manufacturers.
However, the Centre said, "It is pertinent to note that the central government, by nature of its large vaccination programme, places large purchase orders for vaccines as opposed to the state governments and/or private hospitals. This reality has some reflection in the prices negotiated."
While dismissing the Supreme Court's suggestion for uniform pricing of vaccines, the Centre's affidavit said: "In the context of a global pandemic, where the response and strategy of the nation are completely driven by expert medical and scientific opinion, there is even little room for judicial interference. Any overzealous, though well-meaning judicial intervention may lead to unforeseen and unintended consequences."
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