No decision on granting indemnity to any foreign or Indian Covid vaccine-manufactures has been taken yet, the government said Friday, underlining these decisions are to be taken "in the interest of nation and people".
NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul's statement came over the issue of offering indemnity to Indian COVID-19 vaccine-manufacturers.
He said the issue has come up in the context of foreign companies, specifically Pfizer, and that the government is engaging with the US pharma major and others making such a demand.
"In principle, they (foreign manufacturers) expect indemnity to be given. This is what they have said has been the case all over the world. We have also checked with other countries and the World Health Organization.
"Yes, indeed they have supplied vaccines only after such indemnities have been given. This appears to be the fact. Particular companies have requested and we are in negotiation with them but there is no decision at the moment," Dr Paul told a press conference in Delhi in response to a question.
Domestic vaccine major Serum Institute of India has also sought indemnity from liability for its COVID-19 vaccines, saying the rules should be same for all the companies, sources have said.
"On the issue of indemnity for local manufacturers who have done such a great patriotic service, the government has a watch but there is no decision. These decisions are to be taken in totality in the interest of nation and in the interest of people," Dr Paul said.
Asked if Pfizer vaccine, when available in India, will be considered for children between the age of 12 and 15 years as the UK has approved it for this category, Dr Paul said India is readying its own vaccines for children.
"Child cohort is not a small cohort. My rough guess is that if it is between 12 to 18 years, this itself is about 13 to 14 crore population and for which we will need about 25-26 crore doses.
"We cannot have some people getting and others not getting. So we will have to take this into account when we strategise and make a decision based on how many doses of which vaccines are available," he said.
He further said that not only Bharat Biotech's Covaxin, but Zydus Cadila's vaccine is already being tested on children.
"So when Zydus comes for licensure, hopefully in the next two weeks, maybe we have enough data to take a view whether the vaccine can be given to children," he said.
These pathways of decision-making and analysis are being actively considered and examined, he added.
Serum Institute of India's plea for indemnity came after requests for indemnity and exemption from bridging trials were made by Pfizer and Moderna to the Indian government.
"Rules should be the same for everyone," a source at the Serum Institute had said.