For instance, Essential Commodities Act’s Section 3 gives the Centre “powers to control production, supply, distribution, etc. of essential commodities”, which includes vaccines. The provision also empowers the government to ask firms to sell “whole” or “specified part of the quantity” to central or state governments, if required.
“Such provisions are usually not used and the preferred option is to hold talks and negotiate with manufacturing companies but in case of extraordinary situations, there are adequate provisions under the existing legislations the government can use to secure adequate supplies for its citizens before stocks are sold to other countries,” a senior official told TOI.
Estimates show that globally companies can produce 2-4 billion Covid vaccine doses by end-2021, of which India accounts for a majority share because of large-scale production capacity. Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest producer of vaccines by volume, alone has an additional capacity of 400-500 million doses, with investments lined up.
Industry executives say, if ramped up, India can easily produce up to 200 million doses every month of the Covid vaccine alone. However, official sources say, imposing restrictions may be easier in case of locally developed vaccine candidates as compared to those developed outside India like Oxford University’s candidate and Russia’s Sputnik V which will be driven by diplomatic negotiations.
While countries worldwide are under the grip of the pandemic, developed countries have already blocked their stocks with firms. Besides, there are also different international agencies and pacts — many of which also include India — that too have advance commitments for securing vaccines.
In such a situation, India will have to assert its position as the key global manufacturing partner, irrespective of which vaccine is approved first for use and irrespective of the location of its manufacture.
The government is also likely to cap price of the vaccine in public interest in a situation of public health emergency under the Drugs Price Control Order.