Supreme Court Asks Modi to Make Inclusive India Vaccine Policy

A health worker prepares a dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the village of Bazrak, Uttar Pradesh, India. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Supreme Court Asks Modi to Make Inclusive India Vaccine Policy

India’s Supreme Court asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to prepare a vaccination policy that prices the shots equally for all and better protects the poor.

“Please smell the coffee,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said during a hearing on Monday, questioning the mandatory online registration in a country where many don’t have access to the Internet. “We want you to realize what’s happening in the country and make the necessary amendments.”

A three-judge bench asked the government to submit a statement on oath and come up with a policy document in two weeks.

India’s vaccination policy has had a rough ride, starting from Modi’s much lauded vaccine diplomacy during a brief lull between the first and second coronavirus waves, to a current severe shortage for India’s own citizens. At the current vaccination rate estimated at 2.81 million doses per day, it will take 1.8 years to cover 75% of the population with a two-dose vaccine, data collected by Bloomberg News and John Hopkins University project.

Defending the government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the administration is aware of issues and is fine-tuning its policies everyday. All eligible people will be vaccinated by the end of this year, Mehta said.

The prices of two vaccines -- Serum Institute of India Ltd.’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech Ltd.’s Covaxin -- are sold to state governments at a higher price than those to the federal government.

During the hearing, the judges asked Modi’s administration to form a policy to ensure vaccines are available to all citizens at equal prices and to vaccinate people with disabilities and those who lack Internet access.

“The policy today is completely exclusionary for rural areas,” Chandrachud said.

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