India

India’s Ruling BJP Accuses Pfizer of Holding Countries to ‘Ransom’ Over COVID Vaccine

American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer entered into an agreement with Germany’s BioNTECH to supply COVID jabs to several countries, as governments race to inoculate their populations. However, a new investigation has shed light on the “shameful” methods employed by the vaccine manufacturer in distributing the jab.

On Tuesday India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit out at the manufacturer of Pfizer-BioNTECH’s COVID vaccine, a joint venture between American and German companies.

The criticism followed a media investigation, which revealed that the US company had allegedly asked certain South American countries to put up sovereign assets, such as embassy buildings and military bases, as collateral to shield Pfizer from any legal fallout that may arise due to potential side effects from the jab.

Among those who hit out at Pfizer in India were BJP’s foreign policy cell chief and parliamentarian Vijay Chauthaiwale – he said the company’s stance is in stark contrast to that of New Delhi, which has been supplying COVID jabs to other countries including Brazil and some Caribbean states as part of its Vaccine Maitri (Vaccine Friendship) initiative.

​Ashwani Mahajan, the head of Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an outfit advocating economic nationalism, also lambasted the American company over what he described as a “shameful act.”

​An investigation by the UK-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) has revealed that Pfizer has been accused of “high-level bullying” of certain Latin American governments during negotiations for the COVID-19 vaccine. According to BIJ, in one case, conditions set out by the pharma mammoth resulted in a three-month delay in signing vaccine deal.

One official cited in the report was purportedly present during the unnamed country’s negotiations and said that the government felt like it was being “held to ransom” by Pfizer as it tried to secure access to life-saving vaccines.

The report further blames Pfizer for no deal being reached with the governments of Argentina and Brazil. The BIJ probe cites officials from the two countries who said they were asked to sign a “confidential agreement” that would absolve Pfizer of any culpability in case of fraud or medical fallout from the jab.

Pfizer reportedly has a supply deal with nine Latin American countries, while also talking to 20 other governments to supply the COVID jab. The company has yet to comment on these accusations.

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