The government on Monday claimed it will inoculate the “entire eligible population” by the end of 2021, only to be barraged with questions from the Supreme Court about the efficacy of its policy, which allows the Centre to procure just 50% of the vaccines while leaving the States to fend for themselves.

The court also challenged the differential vaccine pricing policy, saying that there needs to be one price for vaccines across the nation. In stark language, a three-judge Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud asked the government to “please wake up and smell the coffee” about the farfetchedness of an illiterate villager from rural India crossing the “digital divide” to register for COVID-19 vaccination on the COWIN portal where slots disappear in the blink of an eye. Vaccination policy today is entirely exclusionary of the rural areas, the court said.

The court highlighted the difference in vaccine prices between the Centre and the States and asked why, when the Centre can purchase vaccines in bulk for ?150 per dose, the States have to pay ?300 to ?600. Additionally, the court asked why even the two vaccines — Covaxin and Covishield — were differentially priced and why some states and municipal corporations had now gone ahead and floated their own ‘global tenders’ for vaccines.

“Article 1 of the Constitution says Bharat is a Union of States. When the Constitution says that, we will follow the federal rule. Then the Government of India has to wholly procure the vaccines and distribute them. Here, individual States are left in the lurch…” Justice Chandrachud, who was heading the bench, said.


These are questions that the court has raised before and they serve to highlight the lacunae and confusion that is holding back India’s vaccination drive against COVID-19. As we note in our report, the virtual hearing on Monday began on a positive note with Solicitor General Tushar Mehta assuring the Bench that with the estimates on supply from domestic manufacturers and the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, the government may even be able to advance its deadline for the immunisation drive. On the same day however, the Tamil Nadu government informed the Madras High Court that its vaccine stocks would last only two more days. There are huge gaps between statement and implementation, spanning issues of supply and logistics that need urgent fixing if a target of end-2021 for immunisation is to be met. That marks this story out as our top pick of the day.(The Hindu)


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