Kerala Kaumudi Online
Tuesday, 11 May 2021 3.27 AM IST

Supreme Court again on responsibilities in Covid times!


In the wake of the devastating Covid outbreak, people are running from pillar to post to get themselves vaccinated.
Meanwhile, there is a great deal of controversy over the availability and price of the vaccine. The apex court on Saturday repeatedly asked why the Central government was not taking action against this injustice even though it was the vaccine manufacturers who set a price for the Centre and double the price for the states. The court's question is why the government, which has the power to do so, did not exercise it in this emergency situation. That is what the state governments and the people have been asking for days. Two companies in the country have been licensed to manufacture the vaccine - the Serum Institute, Pune and Bharat Biotech, Hyderabad. Both are private sector companies. Though private companies, the Central Government has provided all the assistance required for the manufacture of the vaccine. In addition, an additional Rs 4,500 crore was disbursed to the two companies last month to boost production. After this, the two companies announced that they would charge Rs 400 and Rs 600 respectively for the vaccines given to the states. The Supreme Court has already questioned the irrationality of giving vaccine to the states at double the price while giving fifty per cent of the production to the Centre at a reduced rate. But there has been no move to change the position or reduce the price in the interest of the people or at least give it to the states at the rate given to the Centre.
No one understands the logic of the Central government to remain silent in such cases. The question of the court as to whether the vaccine can be procured directly by the Centre from manufacturers and distributed to the States is relevant. The Centre also has the power and authority to determine the vaccine policy as the companies have been heavily funded for the production of the vaccine.
The Centre had decided to vaccinate people between the ages of 18 and 45 from May 1 to ensure a smooth distribution of the vaccine. But there is a strange decision that those in this category will have to pay a high price for the vaccine. The Supreme Court is also vehemently questioning the decision of Centre male people bear the additional burden.
There is only one solution to this. The Centre should stock the vaccine produced and tit should be distributed according to the needs of each state.
This is something that can be done easily.
Similarly, acute vaccine shortages have become a major problem. Large-scale imports can solve this shortages. The Russian vaccine is expected to arrive soon. At the same time, urgent action should be taken to grant patents for the manufacture of the vaccine to other potential companies. There is no doubt that the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech will be willing to cut prices if the current monopoly is lost. Even in the United States, a dose of vaccine costs Rs 188, while here the injustice of buying Rs 300 and Rs 400 and Rs 1,200 in private hospitals is unbearable. The government has announced that it will provide free vaccines to those over 45 years of age at vaccination centers. But the vaccine shortage is severe there. The current congestion and panic can be reduced only if the vaccine is readily available in other centers. Millions of people under the age of 45 are just ordinary people. It is cruel to say that they should pay a high price. A few states, including Kerala, have announced free vaccinations for all groups. But the money required for this has to be taken from the public treasury. Naturally, money for other things will be needed to buy the vaccine. It is time for the Center to intervene to end the practice of determining vaccine prices only by companies. As the disease continues to spread uncontrollably, arrangements must be made on war-footing to get the maximum number of people vaccinated. There is an urgent need to change the vaccine policy accordingly.

Apart from the government system, the Kerala High Court's recommendation that the government should take a favorable decision in consultation with the hospital managements so that the private hospitals where Covid treatment is done does not charge exorbitant rates. This is most welcome at this juncture. Many people rely on private hospitals for Covid treatment. There are complaints that at least some hospitals are using this as an opportunity. Do not forget that everyone has a social responsibility. Each section must play its part in the Great War against Covid. Meanwhile, there are labs here that refuse to accept the state government’s order for reducing fee for the RTPCR test to Rs 500. The organization of labs has approached the court against the government decision. In this case, labs should be ready to accept the Chief Minister’s stand on this issue. That is what time demands!

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