Seal the deal | The Indian Express
On Thursday, the head of the country’s Covid-19 task force, VK Paul, said Pfizer had “indicated” its willingness to make “a certain amount” of its Covid-19 vaccine available in India. This announcement is the first sign of a breakthrough in the Centre’s latest negotiations with the pharmaceutical major. Pfizer reportedly said it was ready to deliver five crore doses of mRNA vaccines, which it developed with German company BioNTech, between July and October. Sealing the deal, however, will require a swift resolution of long-standing differences between the US company and the Indian government over the indemnity clause. Pfizer insists that it should not be liable for compensation in the event of an adverse event; the government said it was considering the pharmaceutical giant’s request. With the country’s inoculation campaign slowing over the past two months due to supply constraints, Indian negotiators urgently need to find ways to overcome disputes with Pfizer without compromising security issues.
In February, Pfizer withdrew its application for an emergency use authorization in India after refusing to accede to the drug regulator’s request for local safety and immunogenicity studies. Two months later, in the midst of the second punitive wave of the pandemic, the government relaxed import rules and allowed vaccines approved by WHO or regulators to enter the United States, United Kingdom , in the EU and in Japan. However, it has so far only managed to secure a deal with the Russian RDIF for the Sputnik V vaccine. Meanwhile, the vaccine shortage has forced several states to suspend the vaccination campaign for the tranche. ages 18 to 44. According to the Centre’s CoWin portal, vaccination sites have shrunk to less than 45,000 from more than a lakh two months ago. More than three lakh people have been consumed by the virus. Desperate situations like this often force governments to weigh the risks. In this case, the equation is not too complex: Adverse events related to inoculation have so far been rare in vaccines administered worldwide, including those manufactured by Pfizer. The toll of the virus and the risk of the infection spreading, however, are very serious. Regulatory flexibility will only mean following the manual and the sense of purpose that drove the Center to speed up regulatory procedures to speed up the introduction of Covishield and Covaxin.
The country’s current immunization plan requires states to secure vaccines for the 18-44 age group. At least 12 states and three municipal bodies have issued global tenders. With experts believing that India’s vaccination campaign needs to be accelerated exponentially over the next four to five months to avoid a possible third wave, the country can hardly afford such a fragmentation of efforts. The anomaly should be corrected immediately and the Center should take responsibility for entering into all agreements with foreign companies, including Pfizer.