India to ship COVID-19 vaccines to Canada as diplomatic tension eases
India's Serum Institute to send doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine within a month
India's Serum Institute will ship COVID-19 vaccines to Canada within a month, its chief executive said Monday, a sign a diplomatic row triggered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments on political protests in India was easing.
Trudeau said the months-long protests by farmers on the outskirts of Delhi were concerning, drawing a rebuke from the Indian government which said it was an internal matter.
Last week, however, Trudeau spoke to Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and they discussed the two countries' commitment to democracy.
Modi also said India would do its best to supply COVID-19 vaccines sought by Canada.
Dear Hon’ble PM <a href="https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JustinTrudeau</a>, I thank you for your warm words towards India and it’s vaccine industry. As we await regulatory approvals from Canada, I assure you, <a href="https://twitter.com/SerumInstIndia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SerumInstIndia</a> will fly out <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/COVISHIELD?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#COVISHIELD</a> to Canada in less than a month; I’m on it!—@adarpoonawalla
On Monday Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive of Serum Institute of India (SII) — the world's largest vaccine maker — reaffirmed that commitment.
"As we await regulatory approvals from Canada, I assure you, @SerumInstIndia will fly out #COVISHIELD to Canada in less than a month; I'm on it!" Poonawalla said in a tweet, using the brand name under which Serum produces the shot developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca Plc.
India's SII has emerged as a key vaccine supplier amid the pandemic. Canada, like many other countries, is relying on foreign supplies because it is unable to produce the vaccine locally.
Experts and officials say India has been trying to use its vaccine dominance to shore up diplomatic support.
A spokesperson for Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the federal government will announce details when a deal is finalized.
"Minister Anand continues to make every effort to ensure that vaccines are delivered to Canada as early as possible from a diverse range of suppliers. We will announce details of any agreement once it is finalized," said James Fitz-Morris in an email.
Health Canada is reviewing two separate applications for approval of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers, including a joint pitch from SII, a private enterprise in Pune in western India.
AstraZeneca Canada filed an application for its vaccine with Health Canada in October. Just last month, Canada's Verity Pharmaceuticals and SII — which has capacity to produce roughly 2.4 million doses per day — filed a separate application.
Canada has a deal with AstraZeneca for 20 million doses.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, widening access to the relatively inexpensive shot in the developing world.
A WHO statement said it had approved the vaccine as produced by AstraZeneca-SKBio and the Serum Institute of India.
With files from CBC News