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India is close to agreeing to grant foreign coronavirus vaccine makers such as Pfizer protection against legal liability so that it can use their shots in an immunisation campaign that is facing acute shortages, three government sources informed news agency Reuters.

"Indemnity will be granted," said one of the sources. "If one company gets it then all of them get it."

Meanwhile, domestic vaccine major Serum Institute of India has also sought indemnity from liability for its Covid-19 vaccines, saying the rules should be the same for all the companies.

However, the government had earlier said that no decision on granting indemnity to any foreign or Indian Covid vaccine manufacturers has been taken yet.

"In principle, they (foreign manufacturers) expect indemnity to be given. This is what they have said has been the case all over the world. We have also checked with other countries and the World Health Organization," NITI Aayog member (Health) Dr VK Paul said.

"Yes, indeed they have supplied vaccines only after such indemnities have been given. This appears to be the fact. Particular companies have requested and we are in negotiation with them but there is no decision at the moment," Dr Paul added.

Pfizer, Moderna and J& J vaccine in India

India invited Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson in April to sell their vaccines after infections rocketed. However, no deal has been signed.

Pfizer has not sold to any country without obtaining indemnity against legal action over any adverse effects of their product.

India has not granted indemnity to any coronavirus vaccine maker, but the sources, who requested anonymity, said the government was having a change of heart.

The government has already met one of Pfizer's other key demands by dropping a requirement that foreign vaccines undergo local trials.

Another government official said he expected Pfizer vaccines to be delivered in August. He said initial recipients of foreign shots could be monitored, before a mass roll-out "once we are sure of its efficacy on Indians."

"We seek the same kind of indemnity and liability protections in all of the countries that have asked to purchase our vaccine, consistent with the local applicable laws to create the appropriate risk protection for all involved," a Pfizer spokeswoman said in an email to Reuters.

One of the sources said India was negotiating prices of $10-$12 per dose for foreign shots. The European Union is paying 15.5 euros ($18.86) per dose for the Pfizer vaccine developed with Germany's BioNTech.

The Pfizer spokeswoman said the company had offered doses to many countries at a not-for-profit price.

Meanwhile, the cumulative number of Covid-19 vaccine doses administered under the nationwide vaccination drive has exceeded 24 crores, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare informed on Thursday.

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