Can't leave to private vaccine manufacturers to decide quota of each State: SC to Centre

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New Delhi, Apr 30 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday said the Centre should adopt a national immunisation model for vaccination of all and not leave it to private vaccine manufacturers to decide on its allocation to states.

A bench headed by Justices D Y Chandrachud said, “'What happens to the marginalised people and SC/ST population living in far flung areas? Should they be left to the mercy of private vaccine manufacturers and hospitals? They will not be able to pay for the vaccines”, it said.

The bench, also comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Rabindra Bhat, said that the government must think of providing free of cost vaccination to all citizens.

“You should adopt a national immunization model to vaccinate people of all classes. Poor or marginalised sections will not go to the hospital and pay Rs 600 for vaccines. You should consider all these aspects,” the bench told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre.

It said that it cannot be left to the private manufacturers to decide how much quantity be given to which state and instead Centre should procure all the vaccines and give it to the states like done in national immunization programmes. The top court asked the Centre to respond to certain questions like how will it ensure registration of persons for vaccination, who are illiterate or don’t have access to the internet considering registration on CoWIN app is mandatory for vaccination for persons aged 18-45 years.

It asked Mehta whether the Centre or States attempt to undertake targeted vaccination drives for crematorium workers and other coordinate groups who are providing on-ground assistance during the pandemic and weren’t considered as frontline workers.

The bench asked Mehta to respond to the question whether the central government has considered exercising its power under section 92 of Patents Act, 1970, which enables compulsory licensing of patents in a public health emergency? “Has the Finance Ministry made any previous grants/ sanctions to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India (SII) in the past, like the current infusion of Rs 1,500 crore and 3,000 crore respectively? If yes, what is the exact breakup, as against the total cost of development and production of the two vaccines”, the bench said.

It also sought to know the direct and indirect grant/aid that was provided for the research, development and manufacture of vaccines.

The top court posted the matter for further hearing on May 10 and asked the Solicitor General to reply to the questions it has posed. PTI MNL SA