At the end of June, India approved a fourth COVID-19 vaccine for emergency usage. But while Cipla has received permission from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) to import the Moderna jab, it might be a while before the vaccine becomes available. According to recent reports, India has been offered 7.5 million doses through the COVAX global vaccine sharing programme. However, there are some hurdles to overcome.
Going by a statement from Cipla at the end of last month, there is no definitive agreement on commercial supply thus far. As such, India's supply of Moderna vaccines can only come in through the COVAX system. The government last week said that it is working actively with Moderna to see how the vaccine can be made available.
"We are in touch with them. We are holding discussions. It is a process of negotiation and dialogues. We are trying to get a solution on contractual and commitments issues. This process is ongoing," Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog told ANI recently.
"India has been offered 7.5 million doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX global vaccine sharing programme," WHO Regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh told ANI.
The indemnity clause however remains a major obstacle. By definition indemnity means "protection against possible damage or loss". In vaccine parlance, this would translate to mean legal protection for the companies in case of any unforeseen complications (side effects) arising from inoculation. Presently the Indian government does not provide any such protection. protects a company from being sued in case a recipient suffers grievous side-effects.
"The talks are still on and a consensus on the indemnity issue is yet to be reached," a source told PTI. Reportedly, the Indian government has put forth certain conditions for finalising the indemnity clause contract and has sent it to the US drug manufacturer for their perusal.
While reports that quote government sources have repeatedly suggested that the administration is willing to grant indemnity to foreign vaccine makers, an official decision has not been forthcoming. One may recall that one of the reasons behind the delay in procuring Pfizer vaccines is the fact that the company is seeking indemnity bond that will exempt it from any legal claims in case there are adverse effects from the vaccine.