Pfizer and Moderna don't want to deal with Indian states for vaccines

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi Published: May 24, 2021, 11:54 PM(IST)

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )

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So what do these vaccine majors need from India?

When the Indian government allowed states to pursue their own vaccine procurement, the idea was welcomed.

States governments were quick to seize the moment. Some chief ministers announced global tenders to buy shots from the international market. Weeks later, they are complaining again.

Because companies like Pfizer and Moderna don't want to deal with them. They want to negotiate directly with the centre and set the terms. 

So what do these vaccine majors need from India?

It's not just about the money. They want the kind of guarantees that India hasn't given any vaccine maker.

Pfizer and Moderna are among the best shots on the international market. Both vaccines work on the same technology. They are more than 90 per cent effective. Together, they have been approved by more than 40 countries. India wants them too. But on its own terms.

The government has authorised states to negotiate for themselves. Global tenders were announced. But it proved to be a damp squib as vaccine makers refused to deal with state governments.

Punjab made request to Moderna, it was denied. Moderna says it will only deal with the central government.

The Delhi state government wrote to Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson. It got the same reply. They will only deal with the Government of India. 

Beyond the obvious need of approvals and clearances, these vaccine companies have their own demands.

For instance, Pfizer CEO claims that they have been trying to get Pfizer vaccines to India for months. But Pfizer wants indemnity, a legal exemption from future lawsuits over their vaccines. Countries like the US and Britain have signed such clauses.

It basically means that if the vaccine maker is sued in India, it will be the government's problem, not the company's. India has not given such indemnity to any vaccine producer. Why should Pfizer be the exception?

The discussion is still on between the company and the government. In the past, Pfizer has been accused of bullying Latin American countries. They demanded embassy buildings and military bases as guarantee against the cost of any future legal cases.

The other problem is supply. Rich countries have already taken most of the shots off the shelves. Reports say, Moderna has its hands full with the existing orders. It might not have more doses for India. According to a report in April, Moderna already had orders to supply more than 1,000 million doses. These are for countries like the US, the EU, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and others.

Moderna is planning a major expansion in manufacturing. But even with a global tender, India may have to wait in line for its deliveries.

States like, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka have issued global tenders. But all of them are waiting for a bid.

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