Indian PM Modi promises to help Canada's vaccination efforts in conversation with Trudeau

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his country — home to the world's largest vaccine maker — will "do its best" to help Canada secure supplies of coveted COVID-19 vaccine doses.

The Serum Institute of India is the world's largest vaccine maker

Left: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Right: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Amir Cohen, Blair Gable/Reuters)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says his country — home to the world's largest vaccine maker — will "do its best" to help Canada secure supplies of coveted COVID-19 vaccine doses.

Modi tweeted this morning that he received a call from his "friend" Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

"Prime Minister Trudeau informed Prime Minister Modi about Canada's requirements of COVID-19 vaccines from India," says a summary of the call issued by the Indian government.

"[The] prime minister assured the Canadian PM that India would do its best to support Canada's vaccination efforts, just as it had done for many other countries already,"

Health Canada is reviewing two separate applications for approval of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University researchers, including a joint pitch from the Serum Institute of India (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, which has signed agreements to procure a range of vaccine candidates, has a deal with AstraZeneca for 20 million doses.

As of today, Canada has administered more than 1.1 million doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine across the country.

But vaccination efforts have slowed down since Pfizer-BioNTech announced it would cut deliveries to Canada by two-thirds between Jan. 18 and Feb. 14, and Moderna reduced last week's shipment by 20 per cent because of production problems.

When asked this morning whether Canada has secured supplies from Modi, Trudeau called India a "great partner."

"I can highlight that India has been a great partner in fighting COVID, whether it's helping us with delivery of other pharmaceuticals or whether it's working together on potential vaccines," he told a press conference this morning.

'We're going to continue to build on the strong relationship between Canada and India and ensure that we're looking out for our citizens, while at the same time we're looking to recover the global economy and create opportunities for everyone."

A statement from the Prime Minister's Office said the two leaders "spoke about India's significant efforts in promoting vaccine production and supply, which have provided vital support to countries around the world."

"The two leaders agreed to work together on access to vaccines," it said.

India raised concerns about Canada's position on farmer protests

The tone of Wednesday's public remarks from India is a stark shift from India's messaging in December, when it accused Trudeau of inciting "extremist activities" and warned that his remarks about farmers' protests could harm relations between the two countries.

Indian farmers have been protesting for months against new agriculture laws that will change the rules on the sale, pricing and storage of crops.

Modi's government says the changes will allow farmers to set their own prices and sell their crops to private businesses. Indian farmers have been selling their crops directly to the government at guaranteed prices.

In early December, the Indian government said the Canadian high commissioner was summoned and told that comments by Trudeau, some of his cabinet ministers and MPs raising concerns about New Delhi's response to protesting farmers "constitute an unacceptable interference in our internal affairs."

"Such actions, if continued, would have a seriously damaging impact on ties between India and Canada," the statement said.

Wednesday's statement from Trudeau's team made a brief reference to the protests.

"The leaders discussed Canada and India's commitment to democratic principles, recent protests and the importance of resolving issues through dialogue," it said.

"They underlined the need to work collectively in rebuilding a more sustainable and resilient global economy."

With files from Reuters

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