The West Bengal government has moved the Supreme Court seeking a uniform vaccination policy by removing the differential pricing mechanism in the current phase of the coronavirus inoculation drive, Bar and Bench reported on Friday.
In its petition, the Mamata Banerjee-led government alleged that the country is currently facing an acute shortage of coronavirus vaccines. “The Government of India must take urgent steps on a war footing basis to ensure that Covid-19 vaccines are made available to the States for free decentralised distribution to the masses without any further delay,” the plea said.
The West Bengal government said that the Centre should place a bulk order for the shots to both domestic and foreign manufacturers to ensure universal vaccination coverage. Experts say that universal immunisation would provide strong community resistance to the infection.
In its third phase of coronavirus vaccination drive that covers all citizens above the age of 18 years, the Centre had allowed manufacturers to sell 50% of their stock to states and private hospitals. The other half is to be given to the Union government.
The vaccine manufacturers – Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India – are selling their vaccines at higher prices to the states and hospitals in comparison to the Centre. Both vaccine makers are charging the Centre Rs 150 per dose for the vaccines. Bharat Biotech is charging states Rs 400 per vaccine shot and Rs 1,200 for private hospitals. The Serum Institute has priced a dose of vaccine at Rs 300 for states and Rs 600 for private hospitals.
In its plea, the Bengal government asked that the price of the vaccines should be capped at Rs 150 per dose. The plea alleged that the current immunisation policy will result in an inequitable distribution of vaccines and defeat the objective of universal coverage, which is important for achieving herd immunity.
In order to reach herd immunity, at least 70% of the adult population need to be vaccinated, which would require approximately 1.4 billion doses, according to the plea.
The Mamata Banerjee government also claimed that it had made a formal procurement order on April 29 for 1 crore doses each for Serum Institute’s Covishield vaccine and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin at their set prices.
The plea claimed that the state has not received any vaccine doses from the manufactures as they were asking for payment first before making any delivery. It said that the government was in the process of making the payment but “no delivery schedule has been indicated by the private manufacturers to the government for the supply of these requisitioned vaccines.”
The Supreme Court will take up the matter for hearing on May 10, reported NDTV.
Banerjee seeks increase in allocation of oxygen supply
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requested him to issue instructions to immediately allocate 550 metric tonnes of medical oxygen to the state, reported the Hindustan Times.
Banerjee said that the demand for oxygen has increased in the state to 470 metric tonnes per day in the last 24 hours due to a surge in coronavirus cases. She said that the oxygen demand is expected to increase to 550 metric tonnes in the next 7-8 days.
“However, instead of allotting the same as per the requirement of West Bengal, Government of India has increased allocation of MO [medical oxygen] to other states from the total production in West Bengal, during the last 10 days, from 230 MT to 360 MT, keeping the allocation for West Bengal constant at 308 MT per day, despite its requirement of 550 MT per day,” the chief minister claimed.
Banerjee said that the daily production of medical oxygen in West Bengal was 560 metric tonnes and asked for the allocation preferably from the state’s output.
West Bengal on Thursday registered 177 deaths, pushing the toll in the state to 11,964, reported The Indian Express. This is the highest single-day death count in the state since the pandemic broke out in Janaury last year. With 18,431 new cases, the infection tally climbed to 9,35,006. The number of active cases stood to 1,22,774.