India plans to vaccinate all eligible adults by December and this does not depend on foreign COVID-19 vaccines, says Dr NK Arora, head of the government’s vaccine panel. He told NDTV that all US-based vaccine makers are insisting on indemnity and liability clauses and India’s reluctance to meet them is slowing down their entry into the Indian market.
Dr Arora said the government would have reconsidered its stance on indemnity if the vaccine makers were willing to provide a larger amount of vaccines, like 100 or 200 million doses. He revealed that Pfizer has offered only 70 million doses. This is a tiny fraction of the 135 crore doses India needs by December. Moderna has offered only 7.5 million doses, which the expert described as insufficient for even South Delhi.
Dr Arora also revealed that Johnson & Johnson has pulled out its proposal seeking an accelerated approval for local trials. However, the company said it is still in talks with the Indian government, and looking at ways best to accelerate its ability to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine to India.
“The overall issue is that for Pfizer, Moderna and J&J – one of the requirements they have kept is what they call the paperwork and it is indemnity and liability related clauses which has to be met by the recipient country.” Dr Arora described the indemnity clause as a major hurdle. It means that the vaccine maker cannot be sued in case of any adverse event. “India has been in talks with Pfizer since January, but the paperwork has not been submitted. Johnson and Johnson had submitted the papers but then withdrew them.”
Dr Arora suggested that India as the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer should look at its own industry’s well-being. He believes that 2022 onwards, India can be a major vaccine supplier to the rest of the world.