Exclusive: Vaccine maker Serum waives AstraZeneca shot indemnity for refugee programme

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FILE PHOTO: An employee in personal protective equipment (PPE) removes vials of AstraZeneca's COVISHIELD, coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, from a visual inspection machine inside a lab at Serum Institute of India, Pune

By Francesco Guarascio and Pushkala Aripaka

– The Serum Institute of India (SII) has waived its protection from legal liabilities for any AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 shots it supplies to a global programme for refugees, a spokesperson for the GAVI vaccine alliance told Reuters on Wednesday.

The news comes days after Reuters reported that tens of millions of migrants may be denied COVID-19 vaccines from the vaccine-sharing programme COVAX because of concerns over who would be liable in the event of harmful side-effects.

Many COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers require that countries indemnify them for any adverse events suffered by individuals as a result of the vaccines. But where governments are not in control – in the case of refugees – that is not possible.

With the waiver, SII’s version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Covishield, can now be allocated to COVAX’s Humanitarian Buffer – a last-resort reserve of shots to be distributed by humanitarian groups, the GAVI representative said.

SII, the world’s biggest manufacturer of vaccines which also produces a version of Novavax’s COVID-19 shot, declined to comment.

AstraZeneca-Serum are currently the main suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, but are set to be displaced by Pfizer and BioNTech at the start of 2022.

GAVI, a public-private partnership, was set up in 2000 to promote vaccination around the world. It operates COVAX together with the World Health Organization to supply COVID-19 shots to poorer nations.

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)


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