The Supreme Court of India on Monday issued an order asking the Central Government to review India’s current vaccination plan in the midst of the country’s second wave of infections. It stated that the present policy would infringe the right to public health, violating Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The Court outlined several aspects of the Central Government’s vaccine pricing policy that require review. The court’s main focus was on the current policy discrimination between who would receive the vaccine or not. This is because there is a difference between the way the Central Government receives vaccines and how State Governments receive vaccines. Vaccine manufacturers have offered a lower price to the Central government and a higher price to the state governments. This makes it likely that state governments will negotiate with manufacturers which will be detrimental to those in the age group of 18 to 44 years, who will be vaccinated by the state governments.
The specific group that the court stated would be affected by the present policy comprises Bahujans and those belonging to other underprivileged groups who may not have the ability to pay. Whether or not they will be able to receive the vaccine will depend upon the decision of each state government. This will create disparity across the country and be a form of discrimination made between different classes of citizens.
This is contrary to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which emphasizes the right to life and public health. The court offered the government a method to proceed with that is consistent with this right. The court said this would be for the Central Government to “procure all vaccines and to negotiate the price with vaccine manufacturers.” Therefore, obtaining the vaccine would be centralized and consistent and the right to life and public health would be satisfied.
The court gave an outline of clarifications that it would like to see from the Central Government. These included the way in which the Central Government was hoping to obtain enough vaccine doses for the population prior to the revised strategy and whether any figures used to come to the conclusion of their policy were of relevance at the distressing time of a global pandemic. The Court wants the Central Government to focus on helping to save people rather than the economic effects of the vaccine.