No Judicial Interference: Centre Tells Supreme Court On Vaccine Policy

New Delhi: Despite being criticised for differential pricing, shortage of doses, and slow rollout, the Central government has defended its COVID vaccination policy in an affidavit submitted in the Supreme Court late on Sunday night.

The affidavit urged against “judicial interference” and asked the court to leave decisions “taken by the Executive, based on expert medical and scientific advice… in the larger public interest.”

The top court, which directed the centre to reconsider vaccine prices on grounds that it would harm the public’s right to health last week, will again hear the matter on Monday.

“The policy, strategy and steps taken by the Executive, based on expert medical and scientific advice, have to be appreciated in the context of a medical crisis… as decisions are taken after detailed deliberations at highest level, no interference is called for in judicial proceedings, leaving it open for the Executive to discharge its functions in larger public interest,” the centre was quoted as saying via an affidavit by NDTV.

The uproar over the vaccine prices took place after manufacturers Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech announced vastly different prices for the Centre, state governments and private medical facilities.

While the centre is paying only ₹ 150 per dose of either Serum Institute’s Covishield or Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, state governments must pay ₹ 400 per dose and private hospitals ₹ 1,200 per dose for Covaxin. Covishield costs ₹ 300 per dose for states and ₹ 600 for private hospitals.

The Supreme Court last week said that forcing the states to negotiate with manufacturers, on grounds of promoting competition and making it attractive for new manufacturers, would adversely affect those in the 18-44 age group, whose vaccination has only just started.

“Whether or not essential vaccines will be available to them will depend upon the decision of each state, based on its own finances… This will create disparity across the nation. The vaccinations being provided to citizens constitute a valuable public good,” the apex court said.

The court during the first hearing on this matter held last month said, “During the national crisis, Supreme Court cannot be a mute spectator. The role of the court is complimentary.”

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