Trudeau’s decision on India vaccines after Pfizer and Moderna reduce supplies


New Delhi: Canada asked India to despatch Covid-19 vaccines urgently after both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna decided to slow down their supplies to the North American country.

The Serum Institute of India will ship 1 million of the Covishield vaccine to Canada, of which half will be despatched in the first instalment, following last week’s request by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada, like many other countries, relies on foreign supplies because it hasn’t started producing the vaccine locally. Its Covid-19 vaccination campaign started on the same day in December as the US, but it now lags dozens of countries and Trudeau is feeling the pressure domestically.

While Covishield, developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, awaits regulatory approval in Canada, the country granted emergency use authorisation to the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in late December.

Canada’s vaccination efforts slowed after Pfizer-BioNTech said it would cut deliveries to the country by two-thirds between January 18 and February 14 and Moderna reduced shipments by 20% because of production problems.

Canada now ranks about 40th globally in per capita vaccinations, according to the University of Oxford’s ‘Our World in Data.’

Canada is investing in domestic vaccine production, including production of the US-based Novavax vaccine in Montreal and development of an inoculation by Quebec-based Medicago. However, neither vaccine is expected to be available soon.

The issue of vaccine supply was first raised by the Canadian foreign minister when he telephoned his Indian counterpart, ET has reliably gathered. Following this, Trudeau telephoned his Indian counterpart to make the request and Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured him of Covid-19 vaccine supplies.

“Was happy to receive a call from my friend @JustinTrudeau. Assured him that India would do its best to facilitate supplies of COVID vaccines sought by Canada. We also agreed to continue collaborating on other important issues like Climate Change and the global economic recovery,” Modi tweeted on February 10.

In response, Trudeau’s official website released a statement saying “Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime Minister Modi 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. The leaders also recognized the need for continued global coordination to respond to the pandemic…”

Asked whether Canada had 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 after the phone call. “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.”

Serum Institute has emerged as a key vaccine supplier amid the pandemic.

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