By Francesco Guarascio and Pushkala Aripaka
(Reuters) - The Serum Institute of India (SII) has waived its protection from legal liabilities for any AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 shots it supplies to a global programme for refugees, a spokesperson for the GAVI vaccine alliance told Reuters on Wednesday.
The news comes days after Reuters reported that tens of millions of migrants may be denied COVID-19 vaccines from the vaccine-sharing programme COVAX because of concerns over who would be liable in the event of harmful side-effects.
Many COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers require that countries indemnify them for any adverse events suffered by individuals as a result of the vaccines. But where governments are not in control - in the case of refugees - that is not possible.
With the waiver, SII's version of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, Covishield, can now be allocated to COVAX's Humanitarian Buffer - a last-resort reserve of shots to be distributed by humanitarian groups, the GAVI representative said.
SII, the world's biggest manufacturer of vaccines which also produces a version of Novavax's COVID-19 shot, declined to comment.
AstraZeneca-Serum are currently the main suppliers of COVID-19 vaccines to COVAX, but are set to be displaced by Pfizer and BioNTech at the start of 2022.
GAVI, a public-private partnership, was set up in 2000 to promote vaccination around the world. It operates COVAX together with the World Health Organization to supply COVID-19 shots to poorer nations.
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio in Brussels and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter)