WHO: Indemnification demand not unique to PH, not linked to Dengvaxia

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — The Philippines has not been singled out in the request of vaccine manufacturers to submit an indemnification agreement before COVID-19 doses can be delivered to the country, an official from the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabinya Abeyasinghe clarified the claim of vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. that Pfizer-BioNTech asked for an indemnity deal to shield the company from possible lawsuits to avoid a repeat of what happened to Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

"The requirements and the standard agreements are common to all countries. They're not specific to the Philippines. They are not related to any issue that happened in the country relating to Dengvaxia or anything else," he said in a media briefing.

Galvez previously said Pfizer wanted assurance after finding out Sanofi Pasteur faced several charges for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide over deaths allegedly linked to Dengvaxia. This controversy also led to low vaccine confidence in the country that continues to hound the COVID-19 vaccination program.

The WHO official said it's common for vaccine manufacturers to ask countries receiving the vaccines to sign an indemnification agreement to protect them from lawsuits since the drugs that will be supplied are only allowed for emergency use, such as during a pandemic. He said this is usually part of the list of requirements whether vaccines are purchased straight from the manufacturer or received through the WHO-led COVAX facility.

"The manufacturer cannot take responsibility for rare, adverse events that may occur, so they require protection. The indemnification clause is something that manufacturers are demanding from every country," he stressed.

The indemnification agreement between the Philippines and Pfizer led to the ongoing delay in the delivery of 117,000 doses of its vaccine, which should have been shipped to the country by mid-February through the COVAX facility.

Meanwhile, the government has completed all documents needed for the delivery of AstraZeneca vaccines through the COVAX facility. Abeyasinghe said they are fast-tracking their delivery. The country is set to receive 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses from AstraZeneca with the delivery date possibly finalized in a couple of days.