COVID-19: WB govt moves SC to adopt uniform vaccination policy, do away with differential price mechanism

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Representative Image
Representative Image

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], May 7 (ANI): The West Bengal government on Friday moved to the Supreme Court seeking direction to disband the current COVID-19 vaccination policy and bring in uniform vaccination policy by doing away with the differential pricing mechanism.

The plea also said that the vaccines must be considered as a "public good" and therefore should be free of cost for the public at the time of an unprecedented crisis.

The West Bengal government, in its plea before the Supreme Court, said that the basis for such a differential cost for each vaccine is not founded on any intelligible differentia and is manifestly arbitrary and discriminatory.

"The basis for arriving at the figures of Rs 400 (now Rs 300) and Rs 600, for Covishield and Covaxin, respectively, is completely opaque and in fact higher than the cost per dose for COVID-19 vaccines across the world," the state government stated in its plea.

"To elaborate further, it may be pointed out that Phase 3 of vaccination policy does not compel the private vaccine companies to supply the entire vaccine stock to the Government of India or the public sector. Instead, these companies are deregulated to the extent of having the liberty to sell 50 percent of the vaccine doses in the open market, while supplying the other 50 percent to the Centre," the plea said.

The plea of the West Bengal government said, "As an outcome of this vaccine policy, the states are being compelled to buy vaccines from the open market, where higher prices are fixed by the two vaccine manufacturers. Therefore, the cost of vaccinating the 18 to 45 demographic shall either be borne by the individual States, or the individual citizen seeking vaccination from a private hospital."

"In the interest of transparency, it is prayed that this Court directs the two vaccine producers to explain the rationale and methodology for arriving at the current prices for the COVID-19 vaccines payable by the States; Profiteering at the time of a pandemic is something this Court ought not to countenance," the WB government said.

The COVID-19 vaccination policy must be underpinned by the principle that we are as strong as our weakest link.

"A single person deprived of vaccination would be to the collective detriment of a large section of society; Any immunization policy must pass the muster of Part III of the Constitution of India and must be in furtherance of a person's fundamental right to health enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution," the petition of the WB government said.

Vaccines must be considered as a "public good" and therefore should be free of cost for the public at the time of an unprecedented crisis and cannot be reduced to a market commodity. In fact, western countries are vaccinating their populations free of cost, it said.

"It must be remembered that COVID-19 is an inter-state communicable disease and therefore the universality of vaccine coverage must be the Government of India's responsibility," the plea added. (ANI)