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Foreign vaccines, Centre says efforts being made at highest level

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that it is making efforts at the highest political and diplomatic level to procure foreign COVID-19 vaccines.

The Centre in a 380-page affidavit in the top court said in order to further increase vaccine availability and incentivizing the foreign manufacturers, the regulatory process for use of foreign vaccines within India has been accelerated and simplified. The Centre pointed out that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration of Covid-19 (NEGVAC), after comprehensive deliberations, recommended that vaccines for COVID-19, which have been developed by foreign countries and also granted emergency approval for restricted use by United States, European Union [EU], United Kingdom, Japan or which are listed in WHO (Emergency Use Listing) may be granted emergency use approval in India.

The Centre contended that the vaccination drive will get a boost if it succeeds in its attempts to procure vaccines available outside India such as vaccines of Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna etc. “It is submitted that for the purpose of procurement of these vaccines from abroad, efforts are ongoing at the level of the highest political executive in the country and also at the highest diplomatic level”, added the affidavit.

The Centre said the recommendation, for procurement of foreign vaccines, is a well-considered, and unprecedented policy intervention, made in light of the global experience of these foreign vaccines which have now been administered to millions of individuals and have proven safety across populations of different ethnicities. “It is submitted that foreign manufacturers while selling their vaccines to others, do not share their price structure either with the Government of India or anybody else in the world relying upon the confidentiality clause in each of their respective contracts”, added the affidavit.

The foreign vaccine makers have supplied their COVID-19 vaccines globally only after being granted indemnity. However, India has not granted indemnity to any vaccine maker yet.

An indemnity is a comprehensive form of insurance compensation for damages or loss. Legally, it refers to an exemption from liability for damages. Pfizer and Moderna are seeking indemnity, from the countries where they supply vaccines, to get legal protection, which means the companies cannot be sued on account of any adverse events after vaccination. Pfizer has obtained indemnity in the UK and the US.

Reportedly, India is examining the indemnity request and it could grant them legal protection demanded by these manufacturers, to expand its immunization campaign.

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