OTTAWA — With the possibility for Canada to receive COVID-19 vaccines manufactured in India, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that his country will “do its best” to see shots sent to Canada.
Trudeau and Modi spoke on the phone on Wednesday about the two nations’ respective vaccine rollouts and the need for international co-ordination on securing supplies.
In a tweet, Modi said that on the call with Trudeau he “assured him that India would do its best to facilitate supplies of COVID vaccines sought by Canada.”
The Serum Institute of India has a contract with AstraZeneca to produce doses of its vaccine, to “supply India but also a large number of countries around the world,” and Health Canada is currently reviewing the facilities—described by AstraZeneca as the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer—as the health agency considers approving the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for use in Canada.
Modi’s office said in a statement following the call that Trudeau spoke with Modi about “Canada’s requirements” of vaccines from India and thanked Modi for supporting Canada’s vaccination efforts, noting the role that the pharmaceutical capacity in India is playing in tackling COVID-19.
According to a readout issued by Trudeau’s office following the Wednesday call, the two leaders discussed “India's significant efforts in promoting vaccine production and supply, which have provided vital support to countries around the world,” and “agreed to work together on access to vaccines.”
During a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Trudeau was asked about whether he had planned to reach out to Modi about ensuring supplies from India, and he spoke in generalities in response.
“We are continually in contact with our friends and allies around the world on the issues of vaccines, on the issue of fighting COVID. 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,” the prime minister said.
He went on to say the government is also in talks with vaccine manufacturers about ensuring “reliable” supplies of shipments and access to additional doses.
On Tuesday, Health Canada’s senior medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the agency was in the “final stages” of reviewing the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Canada has secured access to 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as well as 1.9 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative COVAX. It, like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, requires two doses.
While Wednesday’s exchange included friendly language from both nations, Canada-India relations have been strained at times over the last few years, including as a result of Trudeau’s troubled 2018 India trip. In December, the prime minister came under fire from politicians in India for defending farmers’ right to peacefully protest in response to new laws passed by Modi’s government.
The readout from Trudeau’s office said that the two world leaders discussed the protests, “India’s commitment to democratic principles,” and “the importance of resolving issues through dialogue.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2021.