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Pfizer vaccine talks ongoing with expert group

The alleged involvement of Pfizer in the patent battle has led to scrutiny. Image credit: Roman Tiraspolsky / 123rf. Pfizer vaccine concept.
 Image credit: Roman Tiraspolsky / 123rf

An expert government panel is in talks regarding the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine, Union Health Minister Mankush Mandaviya told the Lok Sabha on Friday.

The Minister said “an expert group of the Indian government is still in talks with Pfizer over COVID vaccine supply.” United States State Department spokesperson Ned Price has announced that the country is prepared to “expeditiously” provide doses of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to India as soon as India gives the go-ahead. 

“Once India works through its legal processes, our donations of vaccines to India will proceed expeditiously,” Price said. “We would need to refer you to the Government of India on the status of its discussions with COVAX, which, in this case, is helping to facilitate that delivery.” COVAX is a facility which provides COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

Pfizer became one of the first drugmakers to seek emergency use authorisation for its vaccine candidate against COVID-19 last year. However, it rescinded the application earlier this year with the intention to resubmit. Come June, Pfizer’s chief executive officer Albert Bourla said the company were in the “final stages” of receiving the nod for the vaccine. One sticking point has been the manufacturer’s request for indemnity against legal costs arising from potential adverse effects of the vaccine. Moderna similarly requested indemnity. An offer has been made to Moderna and talks are ongoing with the company to reach a consensus before the 7.5 million doses assured by COVAX are dispensed. 

Presently, four COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in India. They are Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) under license from AstraZeneca; Russian-manufactured Sputnik-V; the Moderna vaccine; and indigenously-manufactured Covaxin. 

Mandaviya informed parliamentarians that “there has been no delay in entering into purchase agreements with the domestic vaccine manufacturers. Advance payments have also been made to manufacturers for the supply orders placed with them.” The price tag of the vaccination drive currently stands at Rs 9,725.15 crore, he said. 

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