New Delhi: Three government sources told Reuters that India is close to agreeing to shield international COVID-19 vaccine makers like Pfizer Inc from legal liability so that it can use their vaccines in an immunisation programme that is facing severe shortages.
“Indemnity will be granted,” said one of the sources. “If one company gets it then all of them get it.”
In April, India invited Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson to market their vaccines after the number of infections increased dramatically. However, no agreement is made.
Pfizer has never sold to a country without first obtaining indemnity from any legal action arising from any adverse effects of their product.
India has not granted indemnity to any COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer, but sources who requested anonymity said the government was changing its mind.
One of Pfizer’s other key demands has already been met: the government has dropped a requirement that foreign vaccines be tested in the United States.
Another government official predicted that Pfizer vaccines would be delivered in August. He stated that the first recipients of foreign shots would be monitored before a mass roll-out “once we are certain of its efficacy on Indians.”
The foreign or health ministries did not respond to requests for comment.
Pfizer declined to comment on its discussions with the Indian government, but stated that it sought indemnity wherever its vaccine was supplied.
“We seek the same kind of indemnity and liability protections in all of the countries that have asked to purchase our vaccine, consistent with the local applicable laws to create the appropriate risk protection for all involved,” a Pfizer spokeswoman aaid in an email to Reuters.
According to one source, India is negotiating prices for foreign shots in the range of $10-$12 (Rs 730-Rs876) per dose. The Pfizer vaccine developed with Germany’s BioNTech costs 15.5 euros ($18.86) per dose in the European Union.
According to a Pfizer spokesperson, the company has offered doses to many countries at a non-profit price.
India has administered more than 239 million vaccine doses, the most in the world after China and the United States, primarily a licenced version of the AstraZeneca drug produced locally. However, with a population of 1.35 billion people, India’s vaccination rate is significantly lower than that of many other countries.