The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the entire eligible population will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by 2021-end. Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the government is in talks with firms like Pfizer and if it materialises, the timeline of completing vaccination by year-end will change.
A bench, headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud and also comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and L Nageswara Rao, was hearing a suo motu case related to the supply of essential medicines, vaccines and medical oxygen to coronavirus patients.
During the hearing, the bench also asked the Centre whether the states issuing global tenders to procure foreign vaccines for COVID-19 is the policy of the central government. The court also questioned the difference in vaccine prices for the Centre and the states, reported Bar and Bench. “Centre says it gets low pricing since it buys in bulk. If this is the rationale then why do states have it at a higher price. There needs to be one price for the vaccines across the nation,” said Justice Chandrachud adding that the pandemic has evolved in the past two months.
The court also questioned the Centre over the digital divide asking it to explain what a person should do if he/she doesn’t have internet access. “How are you answering the digital divide? How are you ensuring that the migrant workers are able to get vaccinated?…..Please smell the coffee. If we had to do we would have done so 15 days ago. But we want you to smell the coffee and realise what’s happening in the country and make the necessary amendments,” said Justice Chandrachud to SG Mehta.
To this, Mehta noted that if a villager doesn’t have a mobile then he can go to a centre and get registered for vaccination.
“Is this practical? Policymakers must keep an ear to the ground. Look at the poor agricultural labour from Jharkhand who went to Rajasthan, he has to go to a centre there?” Bar and Bench quoted Justice Chandrachud as saying.
SG Mehta submitted that citizens who don’t have access to the internet can take help from friends and relatives. “Online registration decision has been taken since vaccines are not unlimited and if walk-in is allowed, then there will be crowding. But now walk-in is allowed,” he submitted.
Earlier, the top court had constituted a 12-member National Task Force to formulate a methodology for the scientific allocation of oxygen to the states and Union territories for saving lives of COVID patients and to facilitate a public health response to the pandemic.