The Indian
government has decided against buying COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech
and Moderna after domestic vaccine output rose, according to government sources
cited by Reuters. This effectively means that India and China, the world’s two
most populous countries, will not be using the world’s two most popular

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India’s decision
comes after the country covered record vaccination numbers last week, inoculating
nearly 2.5 crore people in a day on September 17, the birthday of Indian Prime
Minister Narendra Modi. “Earlier, there was a shortage, there was a need,” a
government source told Reuters.

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In March and
April, when the second wave of COVID-19 in India had overwhelmed the country’s
health infrastructure, the government had reached out to the US-based vaccine
for shorts. But now, with India’s local production suitably equipped
to handle domestic requirements, the government has decided to not buy the foreign
vaccines. India is the largest vaccine producer in the world.

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The Indian
government has also declined to meet requests US’ companies requests for legal
protection over any side-effects caused by the shots. The Pfizer-BioNTech and
Moderna vaccines are currently only made in the US.

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A second
government source told Reuters that the government will not buy Pfizer and
Moderna vaccines but the companies are free to have private tie-ups after
necessary regulatory clearances. “But sovereign indemnity is clearly something
we can’t give.”

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A Pfizer
spokesperson in India said that the company is still in discussions with the
Indian government and remains committed to getting the vaccine to India. While
the government is open to Pfizer having private tie-ups subject to clearances,
Pfizer has reiterated that it would only supply COVID-19 vaccines to centra
governments or supra-national organisations during the pandemic phase.

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Meanwhile, Moderna
has already received emergency-use authorisation for its COVID-19 vaccine through
its Indian partner Cipla. However, the Moderna vaccine, like Pfizer, needs
ultra-storage capacities which India lacks.