Notice to Centre on plea for cancellation of vaccine patents
The High Court of Karnataka on Thursday said the State government must come out with a policy to prioritise the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine by categorising beneficiaries based on age and date of receiving the first dose.
While asking the State and Central governments to take a stand on ensuring that even private hospitals administer only the second dose of vaccine, the court said the State government will have to take steps to postpone the second dose of vaccine by three months to persons infected with COVID-19 after taking first dose, based on the new guidelines issued by the Central government.
A Special Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Aravind Kumar issued the direction, taking note of the acute shortage of vaccine, particularly Covaxin for second dose.
Though the State government has restricted vaccine for second dose, the Bench pointed out that age- and date-wise priority for second dose is needed to avoid situations wherein a person aged above 60 is unable to get vaccination and the less older are able to get the second dose within the ideal period prescribed between two doses.
As it is an expert body that has decided the ideal period of 4-6 weeks for Covaxin and 12-16 weeks for Covishield, the State and Central governments are obligated to administer vaccination within the prescribed period, the court said.
It noticed from State government’s data that 1,53,571 beneficiaries of first dose of Covishield and 2,95,795 beneficiaries of first dose of Covaxin are overdue for the second dose.
The Bench also directed both governments to take immediate steps to ensure that beneficiaries of first dose of Covaxin are not denied the second dose.
Meanwhile, the Bench ordered issue of notice to the Centre and the Indian Council for Medical Research on a PIL petition seeking direction to consider encouraging pharmaceutical companies to enter into voluntary licensing for scaling up vaccine production.
The petition, filed by S. Chandrashekar, who was earlier associated with ISRO and IIM-B, also sought direction to the authorities to invoke provisions of the Patent Act and the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement, if companies failed to enter into voluntary license, for compulsory licensing by cancelling patents of vaccine manufacturers for nationalisation of patents in the light of the medical emergency created by the pandemic.
The petitioner also sought directions to the Centre to consider that no royalty, GST, or other taxes shall be imposed on vaccine manufacturers in India.
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