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COVID-19 | Centre sets up inter-ministerial panel to solve deadlock over vaccine issues: Report

The Indian government and Pfizer have been locked in a stalemate over the latter's demand of indemnity for its COVID-19 vaccine in India.

June 17, 2021 / 02:12 PM IST
The panel will also look at expediting the entry of foreign-made COVID-19 vaccines for India, and examine logistics, pricing and the supply chain issues (Representative image: Reuters)

The panel will also look at expediting the entry of foreign-made COVID-19 vaccines for India, and examine logistics, pricing and the supply chain issues (Representative image: Reuters)

The Centre has set up an inter-ministerial panel consisting of COVID-19 Task Force Head VK Paul and senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the Law Ministry to resolve issues regarding supply of COVID-19 vaccines into India.

Among the big issues this committee will tackle includes the indemnity clause which has been a bone of contention between the Centre and pharma manufacturer Pfizer, officials told The Economic Times.

Moneycontrol could not independently verify the report.

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Besides this, the panel will also look at expediting the entry of foreign-made COVID-19 vaccines for India, and examine logistics, pricing and the supply chain issues, they added.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Why the panel?

As per the report, there is a stalemate within the government over accepting Pfizer’s demand for indemnity against potential adverse effects of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials told the paper “an influential view within the government” is inclined towards accepting Pfizer’s demand with the logic to import as many vaccines as possible to fortify India’s vaccination programme ahead of a potential third coronavirus wave.

Another section of officials however “flagged concerns over the implications” of accepting Pfizer’s demand. The source pointed out: “If the government agrees to indemnify vaccine makers, we might enter completely unknown territory.”

Why the concern over giving indemnity?

The “unknown territory” officials are worried about is that unlike the United States (which has granted vaccine manufacturers indemnity), India does not have a vaccine compensation fund or other similar mechanisms to compensate for adverse effects following immunisation.

“How will we give compensation?” the official questioned, adding that India may have to consider setting up a compensation fund along similar lines to the US.

He added that a “policy shift” would also be in the reckoning, with indemnity extension for other COVID-19 vaccines administered – Covishield, Covaxin and Sputnik, and also other vaccines in general, e.g. for polio from the newly created fund.

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Moneycontrol News
first published: Jun 17, 2021 02:12 pm

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