Two days after the government assured to vaccinate all eligible Indians by December 2021, the Centre’s lawyer, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta reiterated the statement before the Supreme Court. He promised that the government can procure more vaccines and complete inoculation of all adults by December or earlier.
But, the court pointed out, what it called ‘various flaws’ in the government's vaccination strategy, and asked for a policy document. The apex court pulled up the Centre over vaccine procurement saying it can't put the onus on states or municipal bodies. The court made it clear that it is the union government of India that needs to procure vaccines for the entire country.
The court also questioned the differential pricing of vaccines. The apex court asked why vaccine manufacturers are setting different prices for state government and private hospitals.
The top court questioned why the Centre has excluded the 18 to 44 age group from its vaccination plan. It said people from this age group are the most active working class and a lot of them have died during the second wave. Court asked on what basis the central government has excluded those below 45 in its strategy.
Further, the Supreme Court slammed the Centre for mandatory Co-Win registration and asked how people in rural areas, those who are poor and vulnerable will go online to seek a vaccine. Mincing no words, the court said that the government needs to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ and amend policies to address the digital divide.
The court also expressed dissatisfaction over the Centre’s submissions of an affidavit on the vaccine policy. It asked the Centre to submit its policy document to understand the intent of the government.
To find out whether it is feasible to vaccinate everyone before the end of this year, CNBC-TV18 took a look at the government's procurement plan. Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech need to ramp up production from current levels, but that is only 60 percent of the vaccine stock budgeted by the government.
Bio-e vaccine is still in trials, Sputnik can only be imported for now, Zydus is in trials, Novavax trials have been delayed and the others are still in trial without any regulatory approval. So, nearly 40 percent of the vaccines that the government needs to inoculate by the end of this year is yet to even get approval from the regulators to start production on a large scale.
To take the discussion forward, Shereen Bhan spoke to Vikas Singh, Senior Advocate and Counsel for the Supreme Court Bar Association in the suo moto case; Murali Neelakantan, Principal Lawyer at Amicus and Sanjiv Navagul, Managing Director and CEO at Bharat Serums and Vaccines.
For the full discussion, watch the video.
(Edited by: By Bivekananda Biswas)