Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal government on Friday told Supreme Court that there should be a uniform coronavirus vaccination policy across the country and the central government must take immediate measures to ensure that vaccines are provided to states free of cost.
The West Bengal government, in an affidavit to the apex court ahead of a Supreme Court hearing on the COVID vaccine policy next Monday, said, "States cannot made to negotiate and bargain individually on vaccine prices. States will be compelled to allocate funds for vaccines, which will have a crippling effect on an already stretched health infrastructure."
The new differential pricing mechanism of the COVID-19 vaccines in the latest phase of inoculations must also be scrapped, it added.
India's apex court had earlier this week raised questions about the pricing of COVID vaccines in the country and had directed the Centre to revisit its policy, saying it would cause chaos.
Supreme Court on Monday compelled states to negotiate with manufacturers on grounds of promoting competition and making it attractive for new vaccine makers would result in "serious detriment" to those being vaccinated.
"Prima facie, the rational method of proceeding in a manner consistent with the right to life (which includes the right to health) under Article 21 would be for the central government to procure all vaccines and to negotiate the price with vaccine manufacturers," it added.
Many states, after the Centre opened vaccinations to all adults on May 1, complained about differential pricing in its new policy.
Last month, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had tweeted, "One nation, one party, one leader shouts BJP all the time but to save lives they can't have one price for vaccine. Every Indian needs free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. GoI must fix ONE price for Covid vaccine irrespective of who pays - Centre or the States."
One nation, one party, one leader shouts BJP all the time but to save lives they can't have one price for vaccine.
Every Indian needs free vaccine, regardless of age, caste, creed, location. GoI must fix ONE price for Covid vaccine irrespective of who pays- Centre or the States.- Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) April 22, 2021
Until April, the Central government was buying COVID-19 vaccines Covishield and Covaxin from manufacturers Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech, respectively, and distributing them to states for free.
However, under its new policy for the third phase of vaccination, manufacturers will have to supply 50 per cent of total manufactured doses to states and private entities, who will be responsible for vaccinating those between 18 and 44 years of age. The rest of the doses can be sold at cheaper rates to the centre, which still is inoculating healthcare workers, frontline workers, and all above 45 years of age.