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Suo motu case: SC questions Centre’s vaccine decisions

"Why has the government left it to manufacturers to fix the price of vaccines? Centre has to take over the responsibility of one price for the nation," the apex court observed.

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday came down hard on the Centre over the ongoing shortage of Covid vaccines in the country, asking why states had to pay more for the vaccines than the Centre.

A three-member bench of justices DY Chandrachud, LN Rao, and S Ravindra Bhat was hearing a suo motu case related to the supply of essential medicines, vaccines, and medical oxygen to Covid-19 patients.

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“Why has the government left it to manufacturers to fix the price of vaccines? Centre has to take over the responsibility of one price for the nation,” the apex court observed.

The top court also questioned the logistics of picking up and distributing vaccines and why the government is not supplying for the 18 and above age group as well.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the central government, apprised that the doses produced by domestic vaccine manufacturers–the Serum Institute of India, Bharat Biotech, and Reddy’s Lab–will be enough to vaccinate all over 18 years of age.

He also informed that the Centre is in talks with other vaccine companies including Pfizer.

The apex court further asked how is the Centre addressing the ‘digital divide’ and its constraints in rural parts.

“For rural areas, you have said villagers can register on CoWIN app through NGOs. Our law clerks and secretaries have tried to register on CoWIN app so we know how it works,” the court asserted.

The court also questioned how the government will ensure that the migrant workers can get vaccinated.

The matter was adjourned on Monday as the court gave two weeks to the Centre to file an affidavit with its response to the questions raised in the hearing regarding the country’s vaccine policy.

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