“Canada is yet to sign a supply agreement with Serum Institute of India, and will potentially have three separate sources for the AstraZeneca vaccine,” James Fitz-Morris, director of communications at the Office of the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada, told ET. The principal supply of this vaccine will come through Canada’s bilateral agreement with the company for 20 million doses.
“We anticipate those doses will be manufactured in the US. Through the COVAX facility, we have been informed we will receive doses manufactured in South Korea. While no agreement with the Serum Institute of India has yet been finalised, such an agreement would be in addition to the above-mentioned doses,” Fitz-Morris said. ET reported on February 19 that Canada had asked India to despatch Covid-19 vaccines urgently after both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna decided to slow down supplies to the country. As per the plan, SII is to ship 1 million doses of Covishield to Canada, of which half will be despatched in the first instalment.
Canada has invested over $1 billion to secure access to promising vaccine candidates and has advance purchase agreements with AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Medicago, Novavax and Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. However, the country’s vaccine rollout has slowed because of supply delays by Pfizer and Moderna, whose vaccines are the only ones that have been approved by Health Canada. Canada is also the only high-income country that is participating in the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility of the World Health Organization. Under this agreement, Canada is expected to receive 193,000 doses of the vaccine from AstraZeneca. The vaccine doses under COVAX are expected to come from SK Biosciences, a South Korean company.
Political tension between India and Canada escalated earlier this year after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised concerns about the farmers protests in India. However, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted in early February that Canada had asked India for Covid-19 vaccines. Last week, Serum Institute said it was awaiting approval from Canada’s health authorities to start supplying Covid-19 vaccines to the country. The company has filed for registration with Health Canada, with the help of Canadian pharma company Verity Pharmaceuticals.
Serum Institute makes the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in India branded as Covishield. Concerns over mutation of the coronavirus and new variants have held up regulatory approval of the vaccine in Canada. A spokesperson for Health Canada told ET last week that the regulator has been reviewing AstraZeneca’s vaccine since it was submitted on October 1, 2020, and is expediting the review of all Covid-19 vaccines. Among OECD countries, Canada’s vaccine rollout has been the slowest and it ranks 20th in the world, having administered 3.7 million two full doses to its population.