Wednesday Mar 31 2021
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Govt ordered to fix Sputnik V vaccine price in 7 days

Web Desk
A vial labelled "Sputnik V Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine" and a syringe are seen in this photo, March 12, 2021. REUTERS/Illustration/Dado Ruvic/Files

  • Sindh High Court orders fixing of Sputnik V vaccine's price in seven days in response to an appeal by DRAP.
  • Importer's legal counsel tells the Sindh court that they "have invested Rs25 million" to bring the Sputnik V vaccine to Pakistan.
  • Importer's lawyer asks for permission to re-export; threatens to "sell it to someone else".
  • DRAP's lawyers terms the issue "a matter of public interest"; say "the price is yet to be fixed".

KARACHI: The government of Pakistan was ordered Wednesday by the Sindh High Court (SHC) to fix the price of Sputnik V — the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Russia's Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology — in the next seven days, Daily Jang reported.

The court's remarks came during the hearing of an appeal by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) against the release of the Sputnik V vaccine.

SHC Justice Amjad Ali Sahito remarked that the whoever wishes to import the coronavirus vaccine should do so once the rates were fixed.

'Matter of public interest'

DRAP's legal counsel told the court that a restraining order had been issued regarding Sputnik V's rates. "It's a matter of public interest and the price is yet to be fixed," the lawyer said.

To which, SHC's Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar said the vaccine could not be sold in the market until the drug inspector approves it with their signature. "I understand that it's a matter of public interest but go to the concerned judge," the judge added.

The lawyer for DRAP argued that the coronavirus vaccine should not be sold until its price is determined and the Cabinet had not yet approved the rates.

Justice Sahito in his remarks said that DRAP was the one in the wrong. "Someone has imported the vaccine so they are obviously going to sell it," the judge observed.

Rs25 million worth of investment

Meanwhile, the legal counsel for AGP Limited, which has imported the Sputnik V vaccine, shot back at DRAP, accusing the government body of "working to allow another company to sell the drug" and "reward its favourites".

"We have invested Rs25 million in importing" Russia's coronavirus vaccine, the company's lawyer said, in protest.

DRAP's counsel then argued that the importer wishes to sell the vaccine at a price they deem fit and, therefore, the court should restrain them from selling it until the rates are determined.

The company's lawyer responded by saying the PTI-led federal government had already allowed import of the coronavirus vaccines.

Warning of selling vaccine 'to someone else'

In response to Justice Mazhar's question as to when the price would be fixed, DRAP's lawyer said it would be done "this week".

"The company does not have the freedom to sell the vaccine for $100," Justice Sahito remarked, to which the importer's lawyer responded by saying it should be allowed to re-export the vaccine. "[The company] will sell it to someone else," he said.

DRAP's counsel then asked the court for time to consult with the federal government as the latter was "delaying" the pricing issue.

Importer accuses govt of 'cheating'

Addressing the importer's lawyer, Justice Sahito said there were six types of coronavirus vaccines "so fix the rate and then whoever wishes to import can import".

To which, the importer's lawyer said the government "is cheating".

In response, DRAP's counsel underscored that "we are not standing here for our own sake" but that "it is a matter of public interest".

The court, in its remarks, said it hoped the single bench would settle all the cases in 10 days. "Important matters should be decided soon," it observed, after which DRAP's appeal against the single bench's order was disposed of.