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Pfizer wants waiver of liabilities due to possible adverse effect of its vaccine in India, won’t transfer technology for local production

Not making the vaccine in India will probably result in a higher price of the Pfizer vaccine in India, due to shipping costs and higher cost of manufacturing in the US and Europe compared to India.

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, reported The Economic Times (ET). Pfizer is marketing its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine across the world, which was developed in collaboration with German biotechnology company BioNTech SE.

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. This will probably result in higher price of the vaccine in India, due to shipping costs and higher cost of manufacturing in the US and Europe compared to India.

In an email to the Economic Times, a Pfizer spokesperson said, “At this time, we are not in discussions for any additional local manufacturing for this vaccine. Once the pandemic supply phase is over and we enter a phase of regular supplies, Pfizer will evaluate all additional opportunities available…We continue to centrally manufacture and deploy (from US and European facilities) our vaccine during this pandemic phase.”

In its defence, the company said that the development, manufacture, distribution, and storage of its mRNA technology-based vaccine needs globally optimised supply. Pfizer is eyeing to deliver 2.1 billion doses in 2021. It has plans to expand its manufacturing and supplier base.

Screengrab of the e-paper of the Economic Times

The company’s spokesperson informed, “We have a robust supply chain in place with established capabilities — one each in the US and Europe — that can quickly manufacture and deploy the vaccine for use across the world.” As of May 21, India has administered a total of 19.18 crore vaccine doses.

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. This would have helped in increasing local vaccine manufacturing and tide over the vaccine shortage. The Pfizer vaccine approval in India is stuck over an indemnity clause (agreement wherein one party offers financial compensation for losses or damages caused by another party).

Economic Times reported that Pfizer wanted a waiver from liabilities that might occur due to adverse effects of vaccines. It is in line with the company’s stand in dealings with other countries on the vaccine. It was earlier reported that Pfizer had asked several Latin American nations 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.

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