The indemnity issue has resulted in the unavailability of the much needed COVID-19 vaccines through the Covax facility, hitting lower-middle income countries, including India. The WHO had earlier stated that the Covax facility is doing everything possible to find a practical solution to make sure the indemnification requirement is not a barrier to access, particularly to low and middle-income countries.
In light of the fact that normal liability insurance coverage will not be available to manufacturers from the outset, each country receiving COVID-19 vaccines through the Covax facility, whether distributed under an emergency use authorization or recently licensed will be required to indemnify manufacturers, donors, distributors and other stakeholders against any losses they incur from the deployment and use of those vaccines. It should be noted that such was the case during the H1N1 pandemic.
Each country participating in the Covax facility will be required to pay any legal awards in that regard against the indemnified entities. This will apply regardless of whether the country is higher or upper-middle income country supplied with vaccines through the Covax facility. A government officer told ET that the indemnity clause is inbuilt. “Those countries which have or are receiving free doses through Covax have to sign the indemnity clause. In the absence of which, it won’t be possible for India to benefit and secure doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines through the Covax facility.”
In simpler words, what this means is that the adverse effects of vaccines surround vaccine manufacturing companies in legal controversies, which most of the time lead to imposition of hefty damages and compensation. Hence, these vaccine manufacturing companies are seeking indemnity protection from the government of India to save themselves from any future legal proceeding or liability that might arise out of their side effects.
Moreover, under the Covax programme, rich countries are to subsidize the cost of vaccines for poorer nations. The programme aims to distribute enough vaccines to protect at least 20% of the population in 92 low-or medium-income countries. Its initial goal was to provide two billion doses worldwide in 2021 and another 1.8 billion doses in early 2022.