Tens of millions of migrants may be denied COVID-19 vaccines from a global programme because some major manufacturers are worried about legal risks from harmful side effects, according to officials and internal documents from Gavi, the charity operating the programme, reviewed by Reuters.
Nearly two years into a pandemic that has already killed more than 5 million people, only about 7% of people in low-income countries have received a dose. Vaccine deliveries worldwide have been delayed by production problems, hoarding by rich countries, export restrictions and red tape. Many programmes have also been hampered by hesitancy among the public read more .
The legal concerns are an additional hurdle for public health officials tackling the coronavirus – even as officials say unvaccinated people offer an ideal environment for it to mutate into new variants that threaten hard-won immunity around the world. Many COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have required that countries indemnify them for any adverse events suffered by individuals as a result of the vaccines, the United Nations says.
Where governments are not in control, that is not possible.
The concerns affect people, such as those displaced by the Myanmar, Afghanistan and Ethiopian crises, who are beyond the reach of national governments’ vaccination schemes.
For refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers, as well as people afflicted by natural disasters or other events that put them out of reach of government help, the global programme known as COVAX created a Humanitarian Buffer – a last-resort reserve of shots to be administered by humanitarian groups. Gavi, the vaccine alliance, is a public-private partnership set up in 2000 to promote vaccination around the world.
Unless all the firms accept legal liability, “access to vaccines for some populations will remain a challenge,” the Gavi documents say, adding that new crises will generate additional demand to cover displaced populations.
The vaccine makers’ reluctance to take on the legal risks is “a major hurdle” in attempts to provide vaccines for the buffer, a spokesperson for Gavi told Reuters.
So now we know the reason illegal immigrants are not required to be vaccinated: because if anything goes wrong, they can sue the vaccine makers.
Illegal immigrants have more rights than American citizens, apparently. American citizens cannot sue the vaccine makers for injury.
One final point, while the article makes it seem as if this is a problem that primarily affects countries with failed governments, it’s not. India, for example, announced back in September that it would not be buying vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna and that it refused to grant the companies legal immunity over potential vaccine injuries:
NEW DELHI, Sept 21 (Reuters) – India’s government will not buy COVID-19 shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, three government sources told Reuters, mainly because domestic output of more affordable and easier-to-store vaccines has jumped.
That essentially means the globally popular vaccines, which their makers have pledged not to sell to private parties during the pandemic, will not be available for now in the world’s two most populous countries – China and India.
The Indian government has also declined to meet the U.S. companies’ requests for legal protection over any side-effects from the use of their shots, which are currently made only in the United States or Europe, two of the sources said.
No company has received such protection in India.
“Earlier, there was a shortage, there was a need,” said one of the sources, referring to India’s appeal to the companies in April for vaccines when infections exploded and shots were in short supply.
“Their price will be high. Why should we take on their conditions?”
A second source said: “The government will not buy Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. They are free to have private tie-ups after necessary regulatory clearances. But sovereign indemnity is clearly something we can’t give”.