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Centre defends differential pricing of COVID-19 jabs in affidavit to Supreme Court

The Centre has also opposed compulsory licencing of vaccines and medicines, saying it "would have serious, severe and unintended on Centre's efforts in other countries".

May 10, 2021 / 12:46 PM IST
Supreme Court (Image: Shutterstock)

Supreme Court (Image: Shutterstock)

The government has told the Supreme Court that the differential pricing of coronavirus vaccines is aimed at creating an incentivised demand for the private manufacturers that will ensure market-driven affordable prices.

"Differential pricing is based on the concept of creating an incentivised demand for the private vaccine manufacturers in order to instil a competitive market resulting in higher production of vaccines and market driven affordable prices for the same," the Centre said in the affidavit, as quoted by legal news website bar & Bench.

"This will also attract offshore vaccine manufacturers to enter the country. This will result in increased availability of vaccine"

The Centre has also opposed compulsory licencing of vaccines and medicines used in COVID-19 treatment, saying it won't help boost manufacturing as raw material supply was an issue.

Calls to expand manufacturing have been growing as India continues to report record daily infections and states complain of shortages of jabs.

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Defending different prices of jabs, the Centre in an affidavit to the country’s top court said that pricing won't be an issue since all states governments have announced free vaccination, the news channel reported.

Follow our LIVE blog for updates on the COVID-19 pandemic

Several states have questioned manufacturers selling vaccines at a higher price to them and private hospitals. Bharat Biotech has priced Covaxin at Rs 400 a dose for states and Rs 1,200 for private hospitals. Serum Institute of India is selling Covishield for Rs 300 per dose to state governments and Rs 600 private hospitals.

The Centre will continue to procure jabs at Rs 150 per dose.

The affidavit was filed ahead of the next Supreme Court hearing on the matter.

The top court on May 10 adjourned the suo moto hearing of COVID-related issues to May 13 due to technical glitches.

The Centre also opposed compulsory licensing on vaccines and medicines such as remdesivir and tocilizumab.

The Centre said additional permissions and licenses may not result in increased production immediately.

"It is presumptuous to assume that the patent holder will not agree to more voluntary licenses for such manufacturers who have a new drug manufacturing permission from the DCGI. However, if such a manufacturer applies for a compulsory license under section 92, the same may be suitably considered by the DoC," the affidavit further said.

Also read: 17.56 crore free vaccine doses provided to states: MoS Finance Anurag Thakur

Speaking about registration for COVID-19 vaccination on the CoWIN portal, the Centre said those who do not have digital access can take the help of family, friends, NGOs, and Common Service Centres (CSC).

The Centre also cautioned against "overzealous, but well-meaning judicial intervention" on the management of the pandemic.

"In the context of a global pandemic, where the response and strategy of the nation is 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, in absence of any expert advice or administrative experience, leaving the doctors, scientists, experts and executive very little room to find innovative solutions on the go," the affidavit said.

 
Moneycontrol News
first published: May 10, 2021 09:24 am

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