Supreme Court wants the Indian government to explain vaccine pricing — and clarify how many doses it will need as coverage expands from May 1

Supreme Court wants the Indian government to explain vaccine pricing — and clarify how many doses it will need as coverage expands from May 1
Supreme Court of IndiaBCCL

  • The Supreme Court of India wants the government to explain the pricing of vaccines as it opens up the doors to everyone above the age of 18 years on May 1.
  • States have accused the two manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines in the country, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, of profiteering from the crisis.
  • While the government has asked both companies to reduce pricing, SII has justified that it needs funds in order to expand the production of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Supreme Court of India has decided it cannot be a “mute spectator” as the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to surge across the country.

“The Union of India shall clarify in its affidavit the basis and rationale adopted in regard to the pricing of vaccines,” said the order issued by the Supreme Court on April 27, according to LiveLaw.

SII’s CovishieldBharat Biotech’s Covaxin
Price for states₹400 per dose₹600 per dose
Price for private hospitals₹600 per dose ₹1200 per dose
Source: Respective companies

The Supreme Court has also asked the central government to clarify the projected requirement of vaccines as a result of the expansion in coverage. India has plans to expand its vaccination drive to everyone above the age of 18 years starting from May 1.

This means, not only will the government have to ensure that it has enough doses to cover people above the age of 45 years who will need a second dose, but also the millions who will be lining up to get their first shot.

The controversy around the pricing of COVID-19 vaccine in India

The two manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines in India, the Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech, have both issued separate pricing for states and private hospitals. According to the central government, it will keep half of the stock and the rest of the 50% will be for states and private hospitals to quibble over.

States have accused the companies of profiteering from the crisis since both the vaccines are available for the price of ₹150 per dose to the central government.

The government did ask SII and Bharat Biotech to lower prices on April 26. But, SII has hit back saying the higher prices are because it needs to invest in scaling up and expanding capacity in order to produce more doses of the vaccine.

"Only a limited portion of SII’s volume will be sold to private hospitals at ₹600 per dose. The price of the vaccine is still ower than a lot of other medical treatments and essentials required to treat COVID-19 and other life-threatening illnesses,” said SII’s spokesperson in a statement.


Vaccinations are only one of the four issues that the Supreme Court highlighted

The Supreme Court has decided to let High Courts have the lead when it comes to cases within a particular state.

But, when a problem crosses state boundaries — like the pricing and distribution of vaccines — the Supreme Court believes it has the right to interfere.

Aside from vaccinations, the apex court has also highlighted the following three issues:

  1. The supply of oxygen.
  2. Enhancement of critical medical requirements like COVID-19 beds.
  3. Steps taken to ensure due availability of essential drugs like Remdesivir and Faviprivir.
The apex court has given the central government and state governments time till Friday, April 30, to file their affidavits. The court will be listed again on April 30 for a hearing at noon.

The second biggest country in Asia is currently in the throws of surging COVID-19 cases with daily additions to the overall tally crossing 300,000 for nearly a week.

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