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Kerala High Court Seeks A Time Frame From Centre Within Which COVID Vaccines Can Be Supplied To State

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
14 May 2021 6:23 AM GMT
Kerala High Court Seeks A Time Frame From Centre Within Which COVID Vaccines Can Be Supplied To State
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"We want as much vaccine as possible, whether is form Russia or Cuba..", the State Attorney submitted in Court.

The Kerala High Court today took up a PIL petition filed through lawyers of the Software Law Center assailing the Centre's Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy (Vaccine Policy) for its pricing and manufacturing policy.During the hearing, the State Attorney requested the Court to direct the Centre to supply vaccines to the state of Kerala."We want as...

The Kerala High Court today took up a PIL petition filed through lawyers of the Software Law Center assailing the Centre's Liberalised Pricing and Accelerated National Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy (Vaccine Policy) for its pricing and manufacturing policy.

During the hearing, the State Attorney requested the Court to direct the Centre to supply vaccines to the state of Kerala.

"We want as much vaccine as possible, whether is from Russia or Cuba..", the State Attorney submitted in Court.

A Division Bench of Justices Raja Vijayaraghavan and MR Anitha directed the Centre to apprise it of the time frame within which Covid vaccines could be supplied to the State.

Last week, a division bench led by Justice Devan Ramachandran had also asked when will Kerala get its share of vaccines.

The Central Government Counsel K Rajkumar sought time to file a statement on this aspect by Friday next week. 

The petition was presented to court by Dr K Aravindan, a member of the expert panel on COVID-19 constituted by the Government of Kerala and Dr Praveen G Pai, a Public Health Specialist, who were represented by Advocate Prashanth S and lawyers of Software Freedom Law Center. The petition primarily assails the decision to charge for vaccinations of those between 18-45 and the differential pricing structure followed between the Centre and the State.

Appearing for the petitioner, Advocate Prashanth S today strenuously sought for a transfer of technology and patents involved in Bharat Biotech's Covaxin to manufacturers willing and capable to produce. A communication by VK Paul of the Niti Aayog was brought on record to show that manufacturers willing to produce the vaccine would be allowed to do so. He contended that 19 manufacturers could produce vaccine, and the Kerala State Drugs and Pharmaceuticals Ltd. also had capacity to manufacture as per stipulated guidelines.

"It is not rocket science", he stated.

Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan pointed out that the facilities necessary may not be available with laboratories in the state.

Central Government Counsel K Rajkumar said, "NITI Aayog is not government" and asserted that the question of technology and patent transfer was a policy decision.

State Attorney KV Sohan submitted that at this stage, the challenge was procuring vaccine, rather than manufacturing and vaccinating. Manufacturing at this stage is not practical and would delay the vaccine rollout, since WHO certification was necessary to accredit manufacturing cites.

After submissions, the Court directed that the matter be adjourned to Friday, 21 May for the Centre's submissions on vaccine availability.

The decision to allow vaccine companies to have a three tier price structure with differential pricing for the central and state governments will result in low coverage of the targeted population thereby putting at risk the entire population of India, impinging upon the right to health and right to life, Dr Aravindan and Dr Pai's petition states.

Stating that the vaccines ought to fall under the National Essential Medicines list which is a list of essential drugs that have their prices capped, the petition raises an additional prayer seeking that intellectual property rights in the vaccines are allocated to more manufacturers so as to achieve the universal immunization of Indian citizens. There are at least 19 capable vaccine manufacturers as listed in the National Health Profile, 2019, it is additionally asserted in the plea.

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