American pharmaceutical company Moderna has announced its intentions to launch COVID-19 vaccines in India next year, while fellow giant, Pfizer, declared that it was ready to supply 5 crore shots this year but expects regulatory relaxations including indemnification to carry out the same.
According to sources, Moderna has approached Indian authorities and assured them that while it does not have surplus vaccines to share in 2021, it will be able to do so it the coming year. This poses a serious problem for the government as states are complaining of insufficient vaccine doses to conduct vaccination drives.
The availability of vaccines was the topic of the discussions held during the two rounds of high-level meetings conducted by the Cabinet Secretary as the lack of supply threatens to cut short India’s vaccination program. The consensus amongst the present members was that the procurement of additional vaccine was a priority to meet the widening gap between supply and demand.
Moderna is in talks with Cipla for the expected launch of its vaccines in 2022, with the Indian firm expressing interest in procuring 5 crore doses from the US outfit. Cipla has also forwarded a request to the Central Government with respect to stability in regulatory/policy regime. Cipla has also asked the Health Ministry to take a call at the earliest on its request for additional support in acquiring doses from Moderna.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has expressed its willingness to supply India with 5 crore vaccines – 1 crore in July, another in August, 2 crores in September and another crore in October. However, the pharmaceutical company has made it clear that it will only deal with the Government of India and the Centre will have to make arrangements for the channelization of the vaccines to the domestic market.
Pfizer also wants indemnification from the Indian government and has included relaxations in the regulatory regime for the deal to proceed.
Addressing a press conference on Monday, Joint Secretary for the Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said that talks are being held at the Centre-level with both companies. “Also, the order book of both Pfizer and Moderna is full so it depends on their surplus that how much they can provide in India… they will come back to the Centre and we will help in facilitation to states,” he further clarified.