The Supreme Court (SC) on April 30 questioned the different pricing of COVID-19 vaccines for Centre and state governments.
A three-judge Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, L Nageswara Rao and Ravindra Bhat was hearing the suo motu case on issues related to COVID-19 management.
The SC bench did not pass any orders in this regard, but asked the Centre to examine issue, Bar & Bench reported.
"AstraZeneca is providing vaccines at far lower price to the US citizens then why should we be paying so much? Manufacturers are charging you Rs 150 but Rs 300 or Rs 400 to States. Why should we as a nation pay this, the price difference becomes 30 to 40,000 crores?" Justice Bhat said, as quoted by Bar & Bench.
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.
Justice Chandrachud asked why a national immunisation policy cannot be adopted.
"Will one state get priority access over another in getting the vaccines? Centre says 50 percent will be procured by states for vaccines. How will the vaccine manufacturers ensure equity? Why not follow the National Immunization Program policy...procurement is centralised but distribution be decentralised," Justice DY Chandrachud asked.
For Phase 3 of the COVID-19 vaccination drive, vaccine manufacturers have been permitted to release 50 percent of their supply to states. States can now purchase doses directly from the vaccine makers.