Mumbai: Stating that the vaccine for Covid-19 virus is presumed to be an "essential" commodity thus its management and distribution cannot be left in the hands of private companies, an advocate has approached the Bombay High Court seeking a uniform rate of Rs 150 for both the vaccines in India.
The PIL filed by advocate Fayzan Khan and three other law students has sought a direction to the Serum Institute of India (SII) and the Bharat Biotech the manufacturers of Covishield and Covaxin, respectively, to sell their products at Rs 150 to both the Union as well as the state governments.
Khan, in his PIL, has stated that the SII has decided to sell its vaccine at Rs 150 per dose (plus the GST) to the Union government. The company has further decided to sell the same vaccine to state governments at the rate of Rs 400 per dose and Rs 600 for private hospitals.
Similarly, Bharat Biotech would be selling Covaxin to the states for Rs 600 and Rs 1200 for private hospitals.
Notably, the distribution and pricing of the vaccine was initially controlled by the Union government. However, in a fresh decision, the Union while allowing vaccination for every citizen above the age of 18 years from May 1, has left the costing of these vaccines over the pharmacy companies, which the PIL says is not a "reasonable decision."
"These pharma giants are milking the fear psychosis of the increased death rates due to COVID-19," the plea reads.
"In a situation where the entire country is gripped with the COVID-19 pandemic, price control by the government is a must and such kind of loot and blackmail should not be permitted," the PIL reads further.
Khan has further questioned the move of the Union government in compelling states to compete in the open market for the vaccines despite the fact that both the state and the Union governments have the constitutional obligation "to protect the health of every citizen without discrimination."
"Experience shows that the BJP-led state governments would be supplied the vaccine by the Central government but non-BJP ruling states would not be supplied and they would be forced to purchase the vaccines at a higher rate," Khan has claimed in his PIL.
The plea requested the HC to quash and set aside the prices declared by the SII for Covishield and by the Bharat Biotech for Covaxin.
The plea is likely to be mentioned before a bench led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta on Thursday for an urgent hearing.