Pressure mounts on Indian government to give Covid vaccines for free

The Supreme Court of India slammed the government for the lack of equity in its vaccination pricing policy

Namita Singh
Monday 03 May 2021 12:11

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Ravaged by a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, prime minister Narendra Modi’s government is feeling the heat from all corners over its vaccination policy.

While opposition leaders demand the Indian government launch a free vaccination drive in the country, the country’s Supreme Court also slammed the central government for an unequal vaccination pricing policy.

Under the current programme, central government said it would purchase only 50 per cent of the vaccine and allow the manufacturers to sell the remaining 50 per cent directly to states and private entities at higher prices.

However, manufacturers have quoted two different prices for the vaccine procurement by central and the state government, thereby charging state governments more. This has led to a huge push back from non-BJP ruled states demanding the government set one price for the covid vaccine.

The court said central government’s current procurement policy would “result in a detriment to the right to public health”, an integral part of the Indian Constitution.

The court added that government should consider centralising the procurement of vaccines.

The observation from the court comes a day after the country opened its vaccination programme for the 18-44 age group.

It added that compelling the state government to negotiate with manufacturers “will result in a serious detriment to those” in this age group as it also “comprises [of] persons who are Bahujans or belong to other underprivileged and marginalized groups”.

“They may not have the ability to pay,” said the court.

It added that “vaccinations being provided to citizens constitute a valuable public good”.

Meanwhile, leaders of 13 opposition parties urged the government to launch a free mass vaccination drive across the country in view of the unprecedented surge of Covid-19 cases. In a joint statement, the politicians also urged the centre to utilize the budgetary allocation of Rs 350 bn (£3.42 bn) for the vaccination programme.

Several experts have argued that India needs a mass vaccination drive not just to combat the covid crisis but also to boost its economy, now going through a recession.

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