Amid opposition, India gives Pfizer the patent to exclusively sell vital pneumonia vaccine
Various groups believe the decision will make the shot less accessible to the poor.
India has granted Mumbai-based pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc a patent for its pneumonia vaccine Prevenar 13, amid opposition from groups that say the decision will made the shot less accessible for financially-weak patients, Reuters reported on Tuesday. The patent office’s decision prohibits other firms from making affordable versions of the vaccine and gives Pfizer the exclusive rights to sell the shot in India till 2026.
The company’s vaccine course – estimated to cost Rs 10,895 – will protect children and adults from 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria, though Pfizer claimed that it had reduced the vaccine’s price under the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation.
“Manufacturers will have to find new routes to develop a non-infringing vaccine, which may delay the availability of competing products in the pipeline from Indian producers,” said Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders.
In 2016, the European Patent Office had revoked Pfizers claim on the pneumonia vaccine, MSF said, adding that its patent rights were being opposed in South Korea and the United States, as well.
India accounts for the largest number of pneumonia cases across the globe, according to Reuters. India’s decision to grant the patent to Pfizer will also affect poorer nations who rely on a supply of drugs from India’s thriving pharmaceutical industry.
In March, the Centre had started to rollout the vaccine free of cost in phases under its national immunisation programme. The government, however, did not specify why the shot was being released in phases.