Vaccine makers will be held liable for any mishaps during vaccination as the Centre has not accepted their demand to indemnify them. The government's purchase order with vaccine makers clearly says that companies will be liable for all adversities.
"Company shall be liable for all adversities as per CDSCO/Drugs and Cosmetics Act/DCGI policy/approval," says the order, The Economic Times reported. As per the government, the decision on indemnity should be guided by the law and the courts of the day.
Experts say the liability clause could remain the same in the case of other vaccination programmes i.e. liability for any adverse effects due to vaccine lies with the company concerned.
Notably, considering the pace with which vaccines were made in record time amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have shifted liabilities to the government. These are the US, the UK, Canada, Singapore, EU and WHO-led Covax. They provide immunity to manufacturers from lawsuits and will bear the compensation burden.
Indian companies have also pushed the government to provide protection from lawsuits. Serum Institute of India (SII) Chief Executive Officer Adar Poonawalla last month said vaccine manufacturers need to have protection against all lawsuits for vaccines, especially during a pandemic.
"We need to have the government indemnify manufacturers, especially vaccine manufacturers, against all lawsuits. In fact, COVAX and other countries have already started talking about that," Poonawalla said.
In November, Serum had rejected charges that a 40-year-old man who took part in the 'Covishield' vaccine trial in Chennai had levelled against the company, alleging serious side effects, including a virtual neurological breakdown and impairment of cognitive functions. He had also sought Rs 5 crore compensation in a legal notice to Serum and others, besides seeking a halt on the trial.
India is all set to start a big vaccination drive from January 16. Most cities have already received the doses and healthcare and frontline workers will be the first to receive vaccines.
In the first phase, India plans to vaccinate about 30 crore Indians. These 30 crore Indians come from three groups - 1 crore healthcare providers, 2 crore frontline workers and 27 crore people over 50 and under 50 with co-morbidities.