The government on May 31 faced enough criticism on its vaccination policy with the Supreme Court flagging “various flaws”. Government was questioned on its different pricing on vaccine, shortage of doses, and lack of access from rural areas of the country. The centre has been given two weeks to respond to these issues and concerns.
The government told the court that it expects to vaccinate all of India by end-2021, to which it highlighted roadblocks, including discrepancy in vaccine supply for different age groups.
“For entire population above 45, centre is procuring (vaccines) but for 18-44 there is bifurcation of procurement – 50 per cent available to states by manufacturers and price is fixed by the centre, and rest to be given to private hospitals. What is the (actual) basis for this?” the court had asked.
“Your rationale was high mortality in 45+ group (but) in the second wave this group is not seriously affected… it is 18-44. If purpose is to procure vaccines, why should the centre procure only for over 45?” a three-member bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao and S Ravindra Bhat had asked.
The court also asked why states had to pay more for the vaccines than the centre.
“Why has the government left it to manufacturers to fix price of vaccines? Centre has to take over responsibility of one price for the nation,” the court stressed.
The court also slammed the centre over the “digital divide”, pointing out that requiring people to register on CoWIN would hamper vaccination efforts in rural areas, where access to the internet is unreliable.
“Everyone has to register on CoWIN (but) the digital divide… Is it realistically possible to expect (people) from rural areas to register on COWIN?” the court had asked.
“We are not going to run the government or policy. The purpose of this hearing is to create forum so voices across the spectrum can be heard and the centre takes them into account,” the court had said.