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Arvind Kejriwal bats for Pfizer even as the company wants protection from being sued if vaccines give adverse effects

Despite Pfizer's reluctance to take responsibility for the possible adverse effects of its own vaccine, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pushes the center to purchase Pfizer's 'untested' vaccine.

On Thursday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal urged the center to procure the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine immediately to inoculate children in the national capital and across the country.

Taking to Twitter, the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the country should procure this vaccine “ASAP” (as soon as possible) for children.

The appeal by Arvind Kejriwal came after several media on Wednesday reported that the US pharma giant and the Centre are holding a series of meetings to fast-track approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Pfizer is marketing its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine across the world, which was developed in collaboration with German biotechnology company BioNTech SE.

Kerjiwal wants to centre to approve untested Pfizer vaccines

During the meeting, Pfizer has reportedly said to the government that its Covid vaccine showed “high effectiveness” against the B.1.617 variant, the variant responsible for the second wave of infections in the country. Pfizer also claimed that its vaccine has been proven suitable for everyone over 12 and can be stored in cold storage facilities for a month with a temperature range of 2-8 degrees Celsius.

The American pharma giant is currently holding talks with the government over fast-track approval to provide five crore jabs in the next few months if the center grants them significant regulatory relaxations, including indemnification or protection from compensation claims in case of adverse events.

So far, the government has not given such protection from liability to any of the three vaccines currently approved for use in India – Covishield, Covaxin, or Sputnik V. However, Pfizer insists on protection from legal liabilities, which it has been given by other countries, including the United States and several European nations.

Despite Pfizer’s reluctance to take responsibility for the possible adverse effects of its own vaccine, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal pushes the center to purchase Pfizer’s ‘untested’ vaccine. Importantly, Pfizer is yet to conduct any efficacy trials for its vaccine in India, even as it seeks an indemnity clause for its vaccine.

In fact, last week, the Delhi government had approached both Pfizer and Moderna, another US pharma giant with a Covid vaccine, to buy vaccines directly from them. However, in a major embarrassment to the Delhi government, Pfizer had rejected the offer citing the company policy of only dealing with the central government.

Pfizer wants waiver of liabilities against adverse effects, will not transfer technology

Amidst the second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in India, US-based vaccine manufacturer Pfizer has reached a deadlock with the Indian authorities over its indemnity clause. It has sought waiver against liabilities that may occur out of the adverse effects of the vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine approval in India is stuck over an indemnity clause, an agreement wherein one party offers financial compensation for losses or damages caused by another party. US Pharma giant Pfizer wants a waiver from liabilities that might occur due to adverse effects of vaccines.

In several Latin American nations, Pfizer has asked the countries to pledge their sovereign and military assets, including federal reserves and embassies in foreign countries, as indemnity against any future liability that may arise due to side effects of the vaccine or any negligence of the company. The Pharmaceutical giant had also asked the countries to deposit bank guarantees in foreign countries as part of such indemnity.

In addition to indemnity clauses, Pfizer has also informed that it has no plans to start production in the country. The pharmaceutical company said that it is not in talks with Indian authorities regarding production or technology transfer. As such, Pfizer jabs, if used in India, would be imported from its manufacturing sites in Europe and the United States, leading to higher price of the vaccine in India due to shipping costs and higher manufacturing costs in the US and Europe compared to India.

In its defense, the company has claimed that the development, manufacture, distribution, and storage of its mRNA technology-based vaccine needs globally optimized supply. Currently, Pfizer is eyeing to deliver 2.1 billion doses in 2021.

It must be mentioned that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has earlier asked global vaccine manufacturers to share technology with companies in Asian and African countries to help in increasing local vaccine manufacturing. However, the major pharma giants have refused to share their vaccine formula and insisting on governments signing commercial agreements to avail vaccines for their population.  

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