Prioritise vaccine supply to States from non-governmental quota: Kerala High Court

Court asks Centre how private hospitals are getting vaccines when State’s requests are pending

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday orally observed that the request of the State governments for vaccine supply from non-governmental quota should be prioritised.

The Bench comprising Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Kauser Edappagath orally observed that the request of the State government should be considered on a par with the request of the private hospitals and other private entities. There should be some yardstick for supply of vaccines under the non-governmental quota.

The court made these observations when public interest litigations challenging the Centre’s Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy and also seeking a directive to the Centre to provide sufficient funds to the State government for vaccination and other cases came up for hearing. Counsel for the petitioner pointed out that the private hospitals and big corporate companies were given preference over the request of the State governments for supply of vaccines by the manufacturers.

Preferential treatment

During the hearing, the court asked the Centre how the private hospitals and entities were able to procure vaccines when the State government’s requests were pending before the vaccine manufacturing companies. The reality was that the private players were getting preference over the government’s request. There should be some yardstick in the supply of vaccines from the non-governmental quota. The Centre should try to see that priority was given to the request of the government for vaccine supply, the court orally added.

Kerala’s request

The court also directed the Centre to inform the court whether the request of the Kerala government for supply of vaccines from the non-governmental quota could be prioritised.

K.V. Sohan, State Attorney, appearing for the government submitted that the Centre had fixed different pricing for the vaccines. He alleged that the Centre’s vaccine policy was encouraging black marketing of vaccines by private players.

Uniform prices

In fact, there should be uniform prices for the vaccines and private companies and entities should not be allowed to take advantage of the pandemic situation.

M. Ajay, counsel for the Kerala Medical Services Corporation, the procurement agency of the State government, submitted that though the agency had placed orders for 1 crores doses of vaccines, they had not yet been supplied. However, the private hospitals and companies were getting vaccines readily from the manufacturers.

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