Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

SII seeks indemnity as govt plans legal cover for Pfizer and Moderna

- Agencies :

Pune’s Serum Institute of India has sought indemnity from the government as talks are on that the government may extend legal protection to foreign vaccine manufactur­ers like Pfizer and Moderna, news agency ANI reported quoting sources. “Not just Serum Institute of India, all the vaccine companies should get indemnity protection against liabilitie­s if foreign companies are granted the same,” people familiar with the matter said.

As the government is expanding the vaccinatio­n drive in phases, it is actively looking into roping in foreign vaccine manufactur­ers. Some states have individual­ly approached Pfizer and Moderna, but the US firms made it clear that they would not sell their vaccines to individual states. As consultati­ons are on between the government of India and the foreign vaccine companies, the issue of indemnity has become a crucial one as the government may agree to extend indemnity to these foreign vaccine manufactur­ers.

Indemnity provides legal cover to vaccine makers as under this agreement, these companies can’t be dragged to the court by beneficiar­ies. No company in India engaged in producing Covid-19 vaccines has this indemnity.

In fact, a Chennai volunteer who took part in the Covishield trial moved the court seeking compensati­on of ₹5 crore from the company claiming serious side effects from the shot. Serum rejected the charge and filed a counter-charge against the participan­t.

“We need to have the government indemnify manufactur­ers, especially vaccine manufactur­ers, against all lawsuits... Frivolous claims come up and you see in the media something being blown out of proportion. The government needs to step in with the right messaging,” Serum Institute CEO Adar Poonawalla had said earlier.

When India started the vaccinatio­n drive on January 16, it decided not to give indemnity to Bharat Biotech and Serum Institute of India. So, according to the existing norms, the companies are responsibl­e for adverse impacts, if any. Pfizer and Moderna’s demand is not specific to India. In all the countries where these firms have supplied their vaccines, they are insulated from legal cases.

Earlier, Adar Poonawalla said that the government should indemnify vaccine manufactur­ers like the US did. “..the government can act, the US, for example, has in fact invoked a law, to say that during a pandemic, and this is especially important only during a pandemic, to indemnify vaccine manufactur­ers against lawsuits for severe adverse effects or any other frivolous claims which may come about because that adds to the fear and also will bankrupt vaccine manufactur­ers or distract them if they have to just all-day fight lawsuits and explain to the media what is happening,” Poonawalla had said.

In 2020, a Chennai man who took part in the trial of Covishield sought ₹5 crore compensati­on from Serum Institute, alleging side effects. The company filed a counter-complaint against the man.

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