New Delhi: Defending its Covid vaccine policy, Union government in a late-night affidavit on Sunday told the Supreme Court that differential pricing of vaccines by manufacturers for the Centre and the states or private hospitals would have no impact on the citizens who would be given the vaccine free of cost.
The Centre said, “price factor (of the vaccines) will not have any impact on the ultimate beneficiary namely, the eligible person getting the vaccine since all state governments have already declared their policy decision that each state will be administering the vaccine to its residents, free of cost.”
It said, “Due to consultations and ‘persuasion’ by the Central government both the manufacturers of the vaccine, Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India, have declared their respective prices which are uniform for all state governments. It is pertinent to note that the Central Government by nature of its large vaccination programme, places large purchase orders for vaccines as opposed to the state governments and/or private hospitals and therefore, this reality has some reflection in the prices negotiated.”
“Thus, while it is ensured that the two vaccine manufacturers are not unduly enriched from out of public money, the citizens are not supposed to make any payment for getting both doses of the vaccine,” the Centre said.
However, it also said that the economics of the vaccine manufacturers must be borne in mind. “Till date, there are only vaccines available from two vaccine manufacturers. Both manufacturers [one an Indian company and second a licensee of a British company] have taken the financial risk in developing and manufacturing these vaccines and it is prudent to make decisions on pricing through negotiations in a transparent consultative process keeping statutory provisions as a last resort under the present circumstances,” it said.
The Union government said, “To ensure that there is no disparity between the States inter-se, with active consultation of the Central Government with both the manufacturers, the Central Government has successfully fixed uniform prices to be paid by all the state governments.”
“As per the policy, which is devised keeping the priority of maximum vaccine reach to the citizens depending upon their vulnerability in mind, ensuring equitable distribution of the quantity of vaccine to all states at a uniform rate, the possibility of vaccine pricing decision in India having an inevitable impact on the country’s efforts bringing in more global vaccine manufacturers to India, the policy mandates 50% of the total manufactured quantity of vaccine from both manufacturers to be supplied to the Central Government. The logic behind this is to give priority in vaccination to the most vulnerable group of the population.”
Explaining the vaccine distribution formula, the Centre said, “the remaining quantity to be uniformly distributed amongst all states on a pro-rata basis [viz. the total manufactured quantity from both the companies is divided and allocated to the States keeping in mind the total population of each State between the age group of 18- 44 years]. Out of the 50% quota allotted to each State, the division is made on a 50% – 50% basis. In other words, from out of the 50% allotted to the State, 50% will go to the State [calculated on a pro-rata basis based upon the population of the age group of 18-44 years] and the balance 50% will go to the private sector based upon the contracts between the private sector and vaccine manufacturers.”