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Blinken Says US Vaccines to India Hinge on Legal Process. Here’s a Look at What’s Keeping Pfizer, Moderna Away

Both Moderna and Pfizer have demanded indemnity as a condition to supply vaccines to India.

Both Moderna and Pfizer have demanded indemnity as a condition to supply vaccines to India.

Both Pfizer and Moderna earlier said that they will export the vaccines to India only if they are protected from legal repercussions.

covid vacciVaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna are yet to make headway in India amidst legal issues. Even as India is trying to pace up vaccination drive, there are currently only two vaccines – Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Serum Institute of India’s Covishield - largely available for use. Russia’s Sputnik V has also been rolled out, albeit sparsely.

On one hand, India has to navigate supply and logistical issues as the vaccines of Pfizer and Moderna have to be refrigerated at sub-zero temperatures and would require a robust cold chain system to be moved around the country. On the other, legal aspects of the efforts to bring them to India have emerged as a key sticking point. The Indian government is yet to fast-track their approvals and grant the companies indemnity like it announced in June.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an exclusive interview with CNN-News18, “with any country, there is approval and regulatory process, and legal process required for receiving vaccines, and that’s where things stand.”

While both vaccines are in the final stage of approval, a recent Hindustan Times report indicated that Moderna might not be available until 2022 as the company’s supply orders were fully booked until then. The report also said that the government has gone through indemnity agreements of pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer with other countries and noted that indemnity clauses are part of purchase agreements.

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WHAT IS INDEMNITY?

Indemnity means protection to vaccine makers from legal proceedings, which ensures they can’t be sued in India. No other vaccine maker in India enjoys this clause. However, Pfizer and Moderna have said they will export to India only if the transaction is with the Centre and the company is protected from legal cases.

WHO HAS ASKED FOR INDEMNITY?

Both Pfizer and Moderna earlier said that they will export the vaccines to India only if they are protected from legal repercussions.

WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S STAND?

Niti Ayog member VK Paul had said that the request for indemnity is being examined keeping in mind the larger interest of people. “This is under discussion and there is no decision as of now,” he said last month. However, no official announcement has been made by government on this yet. Earlier, a top Indian government official had said that “there is no issue” in granting indemnity to the two pharma giants and the approval will be in line with the approach taken by US and other countries administering both vaccines.

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first published:July 28, 2021, 21:09 IST