Supreme Court pulls up Centre on Covid vaccines, asks if policy is to make states compete

The Supreme Court on Monday requested the Centre that a number of state governments are actually issuing international tenders to procure vaccines, is this the central policy on vaccine procurement. The court docket additionally noticed that until date, the Centre has failed to submit a nationwide policy doc on Covid vaccines.

The Supreme Court additionally questioned the logistics of choosing up and distributing vaccines and why the federal government is not supplying for the 18+ age group as nicely.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud was listening to a suo motu case associated to provide of important medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to coronavirus sufferers.

“Several states are issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for Covid-19 and is this policy of the central government,” the Supreme Court bench requested Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

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The Centre had earlier stated that all the eligible inhabitants of India could be vaccinated by the top of 2021. Mehta knowledgeable the Supreme Court that the Centre is in talks with Pfizer and others and if it succeeds, then the timeline for finishing the vaccination could be quicker.

‘Want competitors with one another?’

The Supreme Court requested on Monday, “Are you asking the state to pick up and compete with each other?”

To this, Mehta stated, “It’s factually wrong to say that states are competing with each other. It’s not the situation that some states pay more and get more vaccines.”

However, the Supreme Court cited the case of Maharashtra and stated, “We are seeing a spectacle now where municipal corporations and states are issuing global tenders. Is it a government policy that each municipal corporation and state will be left to their own devices and procure global tenders?”

“Compare the budget of the Mumbai municipal corporation with that of some city municipal corporation in a UP or Bihar or any other state. The BMC budget is more than that of some of the states. Are you allowing as a policy for the municipal corporations to open tenders,” requested the Supreme Court.

Also Read | 12 crore doses to be available for national Covid vaccination in June: Govt

The Supreme Court additionally requested if there is any policy steering about negotiating vaccine costs and questioned the vaccination pricing policy.

SC questions why no vaccine provide for 18+

The Supreme Court additional questioned the rationale behind not supplying vaccines for the inhabitants beneath 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,” noticed the court docket.

It additional 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’s not merely the above 45 age group that is affected. Those under 45 years are also suffering.”

The Supreme Court requested why is it that the Centre is making preparations to get vaccines for these above 45 years and leaving the logistics to states for individuals beneath 45 years.

“Also what about people with comorbidities in the 18-45 age group,” requested the court docket.

‘What about India’s digital divide?’

The Supreme Court additional questioned how is the Centre addressing the digital divide and its constraints in rural India. SC Tushar Mehta stated, “Every village has a services centre. If I’m a villager who doesn’t have a cellphone, the common service centre will register me and then I will get vaccinated.”

“You must keep your ear to the ground. You keep saying digital India, but see what’s happening. A poor agricultural worker from Jharkhand, who works in Rajasthan, has to go back to Jharkhand to get registered,” requested the court docket.

To this, Mehta replied, “No. Registration is where he stays. Registration is so that tracing can be done if you have one dose or two doses.”

“We are asking how are you answering the digital divide. How are you ensuring that migrant agricultural labourers who are going from one state to the other are getting vaccination,” requested the court docket. However, Mehta objected and stated it is a policy determination.

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