An application has been filed in the Supreme Court, challenging the new policy adopted by the Central Government to reserve 25% of the domestically manufactured Covid-19 vaccine for private hospitals.
The application was filed by Kerala Rajya Sabha MP, John Brittas. R Ramakumar who is a professor at TISS, says that this policy will reserve vaccines for mainly rich and urban populations. “High predatory prices at private hospitals in comparison to government-run hospitals and vaccine hesitancy will continue to cause low vaccination at private healthcare institutes” the plea states.
The applicants, in their petition have mentioned how, that the contribution of private sector towards other vaccines in the past such as TB, DPT3, polio vaccinations have been negligible. They have cited statistical data to show the same. As per 2011 Indian Census Data and National Household Surveys, the private sector only contributed around 4.7% for tuberculosis, 3.5% for measles, 2.3% for diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus (DPT3) and 7.6% for polio (OPV3), in the overall vaccination coverage including both private an public sectors.
The application highlights how there is a “massive underutilisation” of vaccines by private hospitals. They have administered only 17.05% out of the vaccines provided to them. While 1.85 crore doses( i.e., 25% of total vaccines) were earmarked for private hospitals, by the Central Govt, only 1.29 crore doses were provided to private hospitals in May, however, the government data showed that only 22 lakh doses were used.
The applicants stress on the present day situation of vaccine inequality and cite and Indian Express article to highlight the same. According to the article, dated Jun 5th, nine corporate hospitals groups in bigger urban centers have cornered around 50% of the total vaccine stock meant for the entire private sector during May. The remaining 50% was procured by around 300 hospitals most of them located in urban centers as well. Hardly any serve regions beyond tier 2 urban areas, according to Live Law.
The applicants, who are seeking to intervene in the suo moto case taken by the Supreme Court on COVID issues (In Re Distribution of Essential Services and Supplies During the Pandemic). They criticise the recent decision to earmark of 25% vaccines for private hospitals by the Centre as well.
The plea says-
“Unless the Centre takes over 100% procurement and makes doses available to all through private and public hospitals under the aegis of a proper regulatory authority with continuing mandamus from this Hon’ble Court , the Covid vaccination policy would continue to remain incomplete,inequitable, inefficient andopaque and the fundamental rights of the people to health…will be put to freezer . Therefore the immediate intervention of this Hon’ble Court is inevitable in making the vaccines accessible & available for all the people in India through a transparent procedure and thereby to enhance the trust of the people in their safety in the system”