West Bengal government moves SC against Centre's vaccine policy
The West Bengal government on Friday moved the Supreme Court against the central government's new vaccination policy. The Bengal government has sought to disband the new "liberalized" vaccination policy under which states and private players were allowed to directly procure vaccine doses, albeit at a higher price. The state demands free and decentralized distribution of doses to the masses without further delay.
Place single bulk vaccine order on war footing: Bengal's plea
The Bengal government's plea came by way of an application before the SC in the suo motu case related to India's COVID-19 crisis, Bar and Bench reported. The plea seeks the implementation of measures to expand India's vaccine production capacity and place a single bulk order for both domestic/foreign vaccine doses on "war footing" to ensure universal coverage at the shortest possible time frame.
Plea seeks to disband existing vaccine policy
"Disband the 'Liberalised and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of Covid-19 Vaccination' policy and adopt and implement a uniform policy of procuring 100% doses of COVID-19 from 16 vaccine manufacturers which can be equitably distributed to the States and Union Territories for free de-centralized distribution."
Issue of differential pricing raised
The plea also called for uniform vaccine pricing for the central and state governments. Currently, state governments can procure Covishield and COVAXIN for Rs. 300/dose and Rs. 600/dose. The Centre can procure both doses at Rs. 150/dose. The Centre is covering the cost of vaccinations for those aged above 45 years. The cost of vaccinating the 18-45 demographic will be borne by states.
'2cr vaccine orders placed; manufacturers demand full payment before delivery'
The state government claimed it had made procurement orders for 1 crore doses of Covishield and COVAXIN each on April 29. The vaccine manufacturers are insisting on the full payment first before making any delivery or declaring a delivery schedule, the state claimed.
'Current policy will lead to inequitable distribution'
Further, the state government said the current policy will lead to inequitable distribution of vaccines as states will be made to compete with each other for obtaining vaccines. This defeats the aim of universal coverage, which is crucial for achieving herd immunity. While the state could not procure vaccines, one private Kolkata hospital procured 25,000 doses, the state said, highlighting asymmetrical vaccine distribution.