The Chief Executive Officer of Serum Institute of India (SII) Adar Poonawalla has expressed his displeasure over lawsuits and claims filed against vaccine makers. He urged the government to protect vaccine makers against lawsuits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poonawalla made these comments at an online panel on the challenges of developing a COVID-19 vaccine at the Carnegie India’s Global Technology Summit on Friday.

“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,” PTI quoted Poonawalla as saying.

He termed lawsuits that are being filed as ‘frivolous’, adding that it hampers the chances of rolling out the required vaccine.

“..the government can act, the US, for example, has in fact invoked a law, to say that during a pandemic, and this is especially important only during a pandemic, to indemnify vaccine manufacturers against lawsuits for severe adverse effects or any other frivolous claims which may come about because that adds to the fear and also will bankrupt vaccine manufacturers or distract them if they have to just all-day fight lawsuits and explain to the media what is happening,” Poonawalla said.

SII CEO had earlier informed that the COVID-19 vaccination in India is likely to start by January 2021. He further said that his company is expecting to get emergency-use authorisation from the panel by month-end.

“By this month-end, we might get an emergency licence, but the actual licence for wider use might come in at a later date. But we are confident that if the regulators approve, India’s vaccination drive can start by January 2021,”  Adar Poonawala said during an interaction at The Economic Times Global Business Summit.

There have also been controversy surrounding the vaccine being produced by Poonawalla’s company with a volunteer for the Covidshield vaccine seeking Rs 5 crore compensation for the neurological complications he developed after being administered the test dose.

“Our client developed severe neurological health complications after he was given the test dose. We had sent a legal notice to the Serum Institute; Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR); AstraZeneca, UK; Drugs Controller General of India; Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator, Oxford Vaccine Trial; The Jenner Institute Laboratories, University of Oxford; and the Vice Chancellor of Sri Ramachandra Higher Education and Research,” N.G.R. Prasad, Advocate, Row & Reddy, told IANS. 

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