A file photo of a nurse displaying a vial of Covishield, the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a medical centre in Mumbai, India. (REUTERS)
A file photo of a nurse displaying a vial of Covishield, the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India, at a medical centre in Mumbai, India. (REUTERS)

Covid-19: Canadian pharma company plans to import Covishield doses from India

The Canadian company, which was not identified, is looking at importing 50,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in the UK and manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India under the Covishield brand
PUBLISHED ON FEB 03, 2021 10:55 AM IST

While Canada is struggling to buy sufficient Covid-19 vaccine doses for its population, a private pharma company in the country is in discussions with the Indian government to secure doses of the Covishield vaccine.

Indian officials confirmed the talks, saying it was “a query, not a final deal”.

The Canadian company, which was not identified, is looking at importing 50,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, developed in the UK and manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India under the Covishield brand.

This is not part of the Canadian programme, even though it has ordered millions of doses from AstraZeneca.

Canada has among the highest per capita volumes of orders of Covid-19 vaccines, with deals in place with Pfizer-BioNtech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax, accounting for over 350 million doses in total.

However, its vaccination programme, which began in December after emergency authorisation was given to the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, has come to a standstill due to supply issues caused by the former delaying sending its jabs while it ramps up production at a plant in Belgium and also the European Commission placing export controls on vaccines made within the bloc.

While AstraZeneca is among the companies that has sought its vaccine’s clearance by Canadian public health authorities, there was no response to queries from Hindustan Times sent to the office of the minister of public services and procurement, Anita Anand, over whether these will be sourced, even partly, from India.

Anand, however, told CBC News that shipments from the EU should be expected to resume very soon. While some batches have started arriving, she said “all systems are a go for these shipments”.

Canadian officials led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have spoken to EU officials, including European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, on the vaccine issue. During a media interaction, Trudeau said, “The conversations I had with the president of the European Commission were enough to reassure me, and should be enough to reassure all Canadians, that the EU is extremely mindful that Canada’s contracts be respected, and that our supply of vaccines not be interfered with.”

Canada also entered into an agreement on Tuesday with the American company Novavax for manufacturing their vaccine in the country, though those vials are unlikely to be available before the end of 2021. The botched vaccine campaign has taken a toll on the popularity of the PM and his government.

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