India so far has not given any manufacturer of Covid-19 vaccine indemnity or legal protection against the costs of compensation in case of any severe adverse event post-immunisation, including death. But, as per sources, the government is open to granting indemnity to vaccine manufacturers such as Pfizer and Moderna along the lines of what has been allowed in other countries to the companies.
While the foreign manufactures could get immunity, Indian Covid vaccine manufactures have had to increase their insurance, fearing losses on account of any adverse events. So has the government’s decision opened up Pandora’s box? Officials from the Indian Covid vaccine-making companies News18 spoke to said, “The same indemnity rules should apply for all manufacturers. Why should only some manufacturers be legally liable?”
Facing a vaccine crunch amid the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, India has been trying to buy doses from foreign manufacturers. The Centre has vowed to inoculate all citizens in the country by December.
In a pandemic, the government should try every way possible to get enough vaccines, senior Supreme Court advocate C Aryama Sundaram told News18. “But the government should indemnify these companies if they are doing India a favour, that is if they are giving their goods free of cost or at a concessional rate. But they are going to come in purely commercially and if they are going to make a profit out of it, then I don’t see where the role of indemnification comes from,” he said.
Another point raised is that Indian manufacturers have to supply 75% of their stocks to the government (50% to the Centre and 25% to state governments). Only 25% has been supplied to the private sector. However, there is no clarity or rules set for foreign manufactures yet. Would they also be supplying 75% to the government or would all of their vaccines be for the open market?
For instance, Sputnik V is currently supplying only to the private market. Questions now are being raised on whether foreign vaccines such as Moderna, Pfizer and Sputnik V will be supplied to the central government at the same cost as Indian companies.
On being asked where do the rest of the manufacturers stand, Sundaram said, “All manufacturers stand on the same footing. A government indemnifying a company making profits out of a transaction I don’t see as right.”