No Decision on Indemnity to Foreign/Indian COVID Vaccine Makers

Indemnity gives vaccine makers insulation from legal cases so that they can’t be dragged to court by beneficiaries.

2 min read
Indemnity gives vaccine makers insulation from legal cases so that they can’t be dragged to court by beneficiaries.

No decision on granting indemnity to any foreign or Indian COVID-19 vaccine-manufacturers has been taken yet, the government said on Friday, 4 June.

The government is currently negotiating with US pharma majors, specifically Pfizer and Moderna on granting such special provisions.

NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul clarified in a statement that all decisions will be taken "in the interest of the nation and people".

He told at a press conference that foreign manufacturers, “indeed have supplied vaccines only after such indemnities have been given.”

Meanwhile, domestic players like Serum Institute of India have also sought indemnity from liability for its COVID-19 vaccines, saying the rules should be same for all the companies.


Why Do Companies Want Indemnity?

Indemnity provides insulation from legal cases to vaccine makers, as under this agreement the companies can't be dragged to the court by beneficiaries.

So far, no Indian company manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines – Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India – have been given indemnity, which means, the companies are responsible for adverse impacts, if any.

In 2020, a volunteer from Chennai who took part in the trial of Covishield sought ₹5 crore compensation from Serum Institute, alleging side effects. A man from Uttar Pradesh recently filed a complaint against the company and also against the Indian Council of Medical Research, alleging that no antibodies were formed in his body after receiving the first dose of Covishield.

"We need to have the government indemnify manufacturers, especially vaccine manufacturers, against all lawsuits... Frivolous claims come up and you see in the media something being blown out of proportion. The government needs to step in with the right messaging," Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla said earlier.

India is currently facing an acute shortage of COVID-19 vaccines with the Centre receiving brickbats for its vaccination policy. The government has halted the exports of COVID-19 vaccines and is planning to make 216 crore doses available by the end of 2021, which is being deemed adequate for the entire population above the age of 18.

Vaccines for Children?

Responding to the question on whether Pfizer vaccine, when available in India, will be considered for children between the age of 12 and 15 years, Dr Paul said India is trying to ready its own vaccines for children and is also ensuring there are enough vaccines for supply before the announcement is made.

"Child cohort is not a small cohort. My rough guess is that if it is between 12 to 18 years, this itself is about 13 to 14 crore population and for which we will need about 25-26 crore doses. We cannot have some people getting and others not getting,” he said.

The authorities are still awaiting the results of the trials as Bharat Biotech's Covaxin and Zydus Cadila's vaccines have been tested on children.

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