US-Donated Vaccines Reach Neighbours But India's Batch Delayed By Legalities

As per estimates, India’s total expected allocation for US-donated vaccines is 3 to 5 million doses.

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>COVID-19 cases, deaths, vaccination updates.&nbsp;</p></div>

More than a month after United States President Joe Biden announced his plans of distributing 80 million COVID vaccine shots across the world, India still finds itself mired in legal hurdles, slowing the country’s fight against the pandemic.

The United States on Tuesday, 13 July, said that it was awaiting the Indian government's permission to send COVID-19 vaccines to the country.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price was quoted as saying, "We are ready to ship the vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India.”

While Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh have already received the US' help, what are the hurdles when it comes to India?

When did US Announce the Distribution of Vaccines?

On 3 June, Biden had announced the details of distributing 80 million doses across the globe, with the aim of "ending the pandemic globally".

The distribution of the vaccines is being done in two modes – the COVAX initiative, a worldwide initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and direct distribution to neighbours and partner countries.

How Many Doses is India Expecting?

In the first tranche of 25 million, India is expected to get about 2 to 3 million doses.

Of the remaining 55 million doses, 16 million were allocated to 18 countries in Asia, including India. As per estimates, India will get 1 to 2 million doses in the second tranche, making India’s total expected allocation at 3 to 5 million doses.


What Are the Legal Hurdles?

India, along with other lower-middle-income countries, has raised concerns over the unavailability of vaccines through COVAX due the indemnity issue.

In a meeting held last week, countries suggested that the indemnity clause be removed for vaccines supplied through the COVAX initiative.

The indemnity clause provides legal protection to US vaccine makers against liabilities arising from any adverse events of COVID-19 jabs.

As per the member countries of the meeting, such conditions are leading to unnecessary delays, The Economic Times reported.

US companies, on the other hand, have made sure to demand legal protection from lawsuits before making the life-saving jabs available in India.

As the Indian government and the US vaccine-makers try to reach an amicable agreement, American authorities have said that the Indian government needs more time to review legal provisions regarding the allowance of emergency vaccine imports.

What India Has to Say:

Referring to the indemnity clause, a government official was quoted as saying, “The same is applicable for the vaccines which are available through the COVAX facility. The indemnity clause is inbuilt," The Economic Times reported.

"In the absence of the clause," he added, "It won’t be possible for India to benefit and secure doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines through the COVAX initiative.”

An official involved in the negotiations explained that if India provided legal indemnity to US companies, all vaccine manufacturers, including Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech and Sputnik may also demand the same flexibility.

"At this moment, we are focusing on the language of the contract for the indemnity clause. Discussion is happening clause by clause with the vaccine manufacturers", sources told India Today,


When Will India Receive the Doses by?

As per a Reuters report, India can expect the vaccine doses through the COVAX programme for the first time by August, with 3 to 4 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna shots.

A spokesperson for GAVI, a vaccine alliance which together with the World Health Organization runs COVAX, said that talks were underway "to ensure US-donated doses through COVAX can reach India quickly, and we look forward to being able to deliver to India once all legal requirements are concluded", Reuters reported.

(With inputs from Reuters and The Economic Times)

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