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Kerala High Court seeks Centre’s response on Covid vaccine pricing policy

KC Gopakumar Kochi | Updated on April 27, 2021

Based on two petitions challenging differential pricing of vaccines

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India on two public interest writ petitions challenging the Centre’s Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 vaccination strategy which prescribes differential pricing for Covid vaccines.

The notices were issued by the Bench comprising Justice Ashok Menon and Justice Murali Purushothaman when the petitions by MK Muneer, Indian Union Muslim League Leader and Deputy Leader of Opposition and CP Promod, State Secretary of the All India Lawyers Union(AILU) and a CPI(M) candidate in Palakkad assembly constituency, came up before it.

Munneer in his petition sought to make available Covid-19 vaccines at uniform prices at the State and Centre levels and provide free vaccination to all the citizens including those in the age group of 18-44. He argued that the pricing policy of the Centre would result in denial of vaccines to those belonging to marginalized and vulnerable sections, violating their right to health and life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The vaccine strategy should have devised in such a manner to minimize vaccine hesitancy and to ensure access for all.

Also read: Uniform pricing must for the vaccines procured by Govt: TS Singh Deo, Health Minister Chhattisgarh

He termed as discriminatory the decision to exclude the persons in the age group of 18-44 from free vaccination scheme. He pointed out that as the Centre had already allocated ₹35,000 crore for Covid-19 vaccines, it would be unfair to push the State government for competing in the market for the procurement of vaccines. In fact, these allocated funds should be utilized for the vaccination programme for all the citizens across the country.

According to him, the prices fixed for the vaccine in the country were double the price of vaccine available in developed countries such as the US and UK. The Centre’s Covid-19 vaccine strategy was arbitrary and discriminatory, he said and sought a directive to take over the vaccination programme in accordance with the National Disaster Management Plan and vaccinate all citizens free of cost.

CP Promod, pointed out that the differential pricing for vaccination was unscientific. The Centre should have followed the principles of the decade-old National Vaccination Policy for the universal immunisation programmes. As per the policy, the Centre was bound to procure the vaccines from its manufactures at a fair price and distribute it to the States.

Published on April 27, 2021

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