Supreme Court on April 26 said Centre must clarify the rationale for pricing of COVID-19 vaccines and that modalities should be put in place to ensure shortage of doses would be looked into.
A bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said that the union government should clarify the projected requirements of vaccine doses as the vaccination coverage is being expanded starting from May 1 to the 18-44 age group.
Everyone above 18 years of age will be eligible to get vaccinated against COVID-19 from May 1, the central government had announced on April 19 as it liberalised the vaccination drive to allow states, private hospitals and industrial establishments to procure the doses directly from manufacturers.
India has granted emergency use approval to three COVID-19 vaccines – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik V. All three jabs have a two-dose regimen.
The Serum Institute of India (SII), which produces Covishield, and Covaxin’s manufacturer Bharat Biotech have announced prices at which they will be selling doses to state governments and private hospitals. On April 26, the Centre had asked both vaccine manufacturers to lower the prices of their respective vaccines.
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‘Inform court of steps taken’
The top court said that a comprehensive panel of doctors should be made available for citizens to know steps that have been taken during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Justice Chandrachud added that the Centre would have to inform the court of steps taken to form an identified panel of specialists, which will be replicated at the state-level.
The apex court appointed senior counsels Jaideep Gupta and Meenakshi Arora as the amicus curiae in the matter.
The court was hearing a suo motu case of oxygen shortage and other issues related to management of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We have to step in when we feel so and we need to protect the lives of people," Justice Chandrachud said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the matter was being treated at the “highest executive level” and the state machinery.
“The prime minister is dealing with the issue," Mehta added.
The court also said that High Courts shall not be restrained in passing any directions as they are hearing the cases in their respective states and “they know the ground situation better”.
"High Courts are best equipped to deal with ground situation. We have no intention to interdict such proceedings. reason for our interference need to be understood in correct perspective. During national crisis SC cannot be a mute spectators," Bar & Bench quoted the top court as saying.
The bench asked state governments to file replies by April 29 with regard to their health infrastructure. The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on April 30.Follow Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here