Vaccines for children, indemnity for India’s vaccine makers: Govt clarifies

The Centre has checked with other nations and the World Health Organization regarding Pfizer’s demand of indemnity, Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul said on Friday.

The Centre on Friday said the issue of granting legal protection to Indian vaccine manufacturers is under watch, a day after reports said Pune’s Serum Institute of India has requested the Indian government to extend legal protection. “The issue of indemnity has come up in the context of foreign companies raising the demand. In principle, they expect us to indemnify from legal suits as they are protected in other countries too. We have also checked with other countries and the World Health Organization. This appears to be the fact that they are protected legally protected in other countries,” Niti Aayog (health) member VK Paul said, during the briefing of the health ministry on Friday.

As far as local vaccine makers, like Serum Institute of India, raising a similar demand is concerned, the issue is under watch, Dr Paul said. No decision has been taken as a decision in this regard has to be taken in totality, he said, adding negotiations with Pfizer are on.

Will Pfizer be administered to children in India?

On being asked whether Pfizer — with which India’s agreement is nearing finalisation — will be considered for children between the age of 12 and 15 years as the UK has approved the vaccine for children, Dr Paul said India has its own vaccines being readied for children. “We have to understand that the child cohort is not a small cohort. When we are talking about children, we are talking about at least 13-14 crore population and to cater to them, we will need 26-28 crore doses. So we will have to make a decision based on how many doses of what vaccines are available,” Dr Paul said adding that apart from Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, which is now under trial for children, Zydus Cadila’s vaccine could be an option as the vaccine is already tested on children. “Bharat Biotech’s trial will not take much time. Zydus Cadila’s vaccine too will come for licence soon. When it comes, we will have more insight into the matter as this vaccine has already been tested on children,” Dr Paul said.

As India is expanding its vaccination drive, it is in negotiation with Moderna and Pfizer. While Moderna will be able to share its vaccines with India only in 2022, Pfizer is ready to share 5 crore doses with India but it has imposed two conditions. The US pharma company will only deal with the Centre and it has sought legal protection from the government which means no lawsuit will be filed against the company in India. The demand has raised similar demand from Serum Institute of India as its CEO Adar Poonawalla earlier batted for similar cover for vaccine makers.

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