The Supreme Court asked the Centre on Monday about the vaccine-procurement policy by referring to the fact that states are in the process of issuing global tenders to procure jabs for coronavirus.
A bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao, was hearing a suo motu case related to supply of essential medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to coronavirus patients.
"Several states are issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19 and is this policy of the central government?" the bench asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
The Centre said the entire eligible population would be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
The government is in talks with companies like Pfizer and if it succeeds, then the timeline for completing the vaccination would change, the law officer said.
Frequently Asked Questions
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.
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.
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.
The hearing is continuing.Earlier, the top court had constituted a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to the states and Union territories for saving lives of COVID patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.